Wines from the Combe de Savoie, Mont Granier & Jongieux
By Wink Lorch
This Guide was last updated on 18 July 2013
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A rare occurance - snow and sunshine in the vineyards of Chignin with one of the ruined towers. © Wink Lorch
The small wine region of Savoie is sometimes misunderstood, especially in this micro-region where the largest quantities of wines are produced between the Winter Olympic city of Albertville and Chambéry, the capital of Savoie. Ski resorts are the life-blood of the industry, but often it’s only in hideaway auberges that skiers sample really good Savoie wines. Many wines taste very different from the cliché of cool climate, high altitude, ethereal wines; lovers of obscure grape varieties will find fascinating wines that match not only the local, rather rustic cuisine, but finer classic dishes too.
Wine tourism has not yet really arrived here and the winegrowing valleys are quiet, especially in winter. But on a bright sunny day you can arrange to visit a producer and before tasting, appreciate the spectacular views across the dormant vineyards to Mont Blanc and the Tarentaise Mountains. In summer, if you are heading south on the motorways, Savoie offers plenty to stop for en route - stunning scenery, spectacular lakes and ample opportunities for walking, cycling or water sports, not to mention some interesting historical towns. And then you can tell the world about Mondeuse, Altesse, Jacquère and more.
The total Savoie wine region has about 2,000ha of vineyards scattered from south of Lac Léman (Lake Geneva) in Haute Savoie, to the Isère Valley and Chambéry on the borders of the departments of Savoie and Isère and west beyond the Lac de Bourget into the Ain department. In this micro-region we include three important wine districts: the Combe de Savoie, a wide glacial valley which runs from Albertville to Chignin, close to Chambéry; the vineyards of Apremont and Abymes at foot of Mont Granier; and those above the Rhône around Jongieux west of Lac de Bourget/Aix-les-Bains. Jongieux has a slightly gentler, warmer climate than the other areas which are closer to the Alpine peaks.
Altitudes are not dissimilar to those in Alsace or the Côte d'Or in Burgundy, with only occasional snow, and the best are steep with a southerly exposition. Summers can be very warm and some vineyards around Chignin and Montmélian on virtually sold rock, can suffer from drought. However, usually it is summer rain which is the hazard with a danger of mildew and rot. Often, a warm, sunny autumn saves the harvest favouring the later-ripening Mondeuse, Altesse and Jacquère varieties. Soils are varied, but not surprisingly generally glacial and stony.
Chambéry is around a six-hour drive from Paris (560km) via A6, A46 and A43 motorways, skirting the north of Lyon. It is about 1½ hours from Lyon using the A43. By train, there are some direct trains to Chambéry from Paris Gare de Lyon taking around 3 hours, but usually it is necessary to change either at Lyon or at Aix-les-Bains. Chambéry has its own airport with flights from Paris and in the winter ski season from the UK and elsewhere. There are also European budget flights to Grenoble, less than one hour’s drive away. The nearest major international airports are Lyon Saint Exupéry and Geneva.
Chambéry Tourist Office, 24 Boulevard de la Colonne, 73000 Chambéry
Aix-les-Bains Tourist Office, Place Maurice Mollard, 73101 Aix-les-Bains
Albertville Tourist Office, Place de l'Europe, 73204 Albertville
General Savoie tourism website:
Maison des Vins de Savoie, 73190 Apremont
Syndicat du Cru Jongieux
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