The Crus of Savoie
We are crazy about Savoie! Domaine les Cantates, Domaine Lupin and Domaine Delalex, all tucked between Jura, Switzerland and Bugey. Home to a range of mountains, lakes and rivers Savoie has three appellations and over 2100ha of vines spread across its alpine terrain. With steep-slopes, a mountainous topography and local varietals, Savoie produces 70% white wine with a palate that mirrors its Alpine surroundings: light in color, airy, clean and bright, and mineral driven. And while 95% of these wines were consumed locally until recently, it’s high time we shine a light on Savoie and its 17 crus.
Offering great diversity, each Cru must abide by its own set of regulations, to best express its varietals and terroir. In Chignin, the largest and most famous of the Crus, and also home to Domaine des Cantates, Jacquere undergoes MLF, yielding lusher, more voluptuous wines with great length. Here, one will also find Bergeron (Roussane) and Mondeuse, a dark-skinned, peppery grape that can be vinified like Beaujolais or with barrique treatment.
Established by René Quenard, Domaine les Cantates is currently owned by Savoie native Philippe Viallet. Totalling 18ha, the estate possesses some of the most coveted parcels in Chignin, the pearl of Savoie, where the family farms 13ha. Within the AOPs 80 ha, Dm les Cantates is the largest producer; its vineyard located at the foot of the mountain La Savoyarde with its rocky soils and sunny hillsides. Here, Viallet produces Dm les Cantates Cru Chignin Bergeron, which is 100% Roussane, with stone fruit aromas, white flower notes and an elegant minerality; it’s a fine wine specialty of Savoie. Like Jacquere, Chignin Bergeron always undergoes MLF, followed by 6-12 months on lees, yielding complex expressions with great minerality.
In Frangy, we find a lesser-known, small and isolated Cru that specializes in Roussette (Altesse). Home to Domaine Lupin, Frangy is located northwest of Seyssel. Here, Bruno Lupin established his 5ha estate, after running the cellar at La Cave de Genève in Switzerland for many years. With his vineyards located on a hillside called Les Aricoques, Lupin farms one of the best locations in Frangy, with full southern exposure and a relatively low altitude that protects the vines from cold northern winds. Here the soils are molasses, a crumbly calcareous soil that’s a result of the mountain’s erosion. While most of his vines are 25-years old, Lupin also farms a 60+ year-old single parcel of individually staked vines. Coined “Cuvée du Pépé”, 20% of the fruit from this parcel undergoes MLF without de-acidification, which is a common practice in the area. Aged for a year on its lees, the resulting wine is floral, with bready aromas, a rich mouthfeel and a long finish with elegant minerality and nerve. Delicious now, these wines are amazing after five years in the bottle.
Located in the northeastern-most reaches of Savoie, Marin sits on the edge of the Dranse River bank, in the foothills of the Alps and a stone’s throw from Lac Léman. Here, the Delalex brothers, Samuel and Benoit, make Chasselas, with searing acidity. By foregoing MLF, and putting their wines through extensive bottle aging before release, Domaine Delalex is an anomaly in Marin. Planted mostly to Chasselas, their 8ha of vineyards in the Cru of Marin are planted to vines that are 10-70 years old. The single vineyard Clos de Pont was replanted in 1982, and is a steep and stony site along the banks of the Dranse River that’s slightly warmer and protected from the winds. Both of the brothers’ wines are fermented in the same fashion and can age beautifully while maintaining freshness and vivacity.
As the everlasting hunt for lesser known regions and varietals continues, we’ve got our palates on Savoie. Pour back a glass and don’t say we didn’t tell you.