Small but fierce, Savoie is one of France’s most interesting and underrated regions, producing thirst-quenching wines from an array of local varieties. Situated in eastern France, the region’s proximity to endless mountain ranges and crisp bodies of water give way to high-acid wines, perfect for pairing with the rich, local cuisine. Skiers, cheese lovers, and white wine aficionados, this one’s for you!
A Bit of Savoyard History
Historically, the region of Savoie was a territory shared between France, Italy, and Switzerland. In 1792, the region was annexed to France, quickly returning back to Sardinia less than 25 years later. In 1860, as per the Treaty of Turin, Savoie officially became part of France again, split into two main departments: Savoie and Haute-Savoie. Because of the region’s rich cultural history, Italian and Swiss influences are still heavily present in cuisine, culture, and other facets of daily life, including wine. Savoie officially gained its AOC status in 1973.
As with the rest of France, the wines of Savoie are classified under the Appellation d’Origine Controlée (AOC) system. Although frequently lumped in with the Jura, Savoie is actually quite different than its northerly neighbor. Over 95% of the region’s wines come from three appellations, the largest of which is the overarching AOC Savoie. Within said appellation, 17 crus exist, the most popular of which are Abymes, Apremont, Chignin, Crepy, and Jongieux. Roussette de Savoie is the second largest appellation, and Seyssel clocks in at number three, the latter of which is known for their still and sparkling wine production.
Located in eastern France, Savoie is characterized by its proximity to a slew of bodies of water and mountains, including Lake Geneva, Lake Annecy, Lake Bourget, and the Alps. The region is neighbored by Switzerland to the East, Jura to the north, and the Rhone river to the west. Savoie’s 2,000 hectares of vineyards are spread across four departments: Savoie, Haute-Savoie, Isere, and Ain. The region experiences an overall continental climate, with alpine and Mediterranean influences. Most vines are planted on mountainsides, ranging up to 1,800 feet above sea level, and although the region can get quite chilly, the large amount of bodies of water present help in moderating climate.
Savoie’s wine output represents less than 1% of France’s total wine production; of this small percent, 70% of production is white, dominated by the Jacquere, Altesse, and Chasselas varieties. Small amounts of Grignet, Marsanne, Molette, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay can also be found. For red wines, Mondeuse and Persan dominate production, with Pinot Noir, Gamay, Poulsard, and small amounts of Cabernet Franc also cultivated. Sparkling wine production is also permitted throughout the region, the most popular of which comes from Bugey. In total, 23 grape varieties are permitted to be grown within the region.
Wines from Savoie tend to be fruit-forward and crisp, showing high acidity and crunchy texture, pairing extremely well with the region’s rich foods, including fondue, raclette, and tartiflette. The region’s whites tend to show notes of citrus, herbs, and minerals, while the reds tend to be lighter-bodied and tart, with red berry, pepper, and earth flavors. Lovers of cheese, skiing, and all things mountain-influenced, this region is not to be missed!