Let’s discover wines from Savoy
Near Chambéry, vines are planted amidst stunning scenery. Growing several grapes varieties rarely encountered elsewhere allows winemakers to produce distinctive wines that are enjoying increasing success.
Known to be a haven for skiers, hikers and extreme sports enthusiasts, French Alps also have plenty to offer wine lovers.
[ Practical ]
- By road
570 km from Paris on autoroute A6 till Lyon, then on autoroutes A46, A432 and A43 till Chambéry.
- By train
TGV from Paris Gare de Lyon to Chambéry. The journey takes around 3 h.
It’s necessary to have a car to get to the wineries.
Hotel des Princes, in Chambéry
Altedia Lodge, in Barberaz
Le Saint-Vincent, in Apremont
Chateau des Comtes de Challes, in Challes-les-Eaux
Hôtel du Parc, in La Rochette
- Bed and Breakfast
Chateau des Allues, near Saint-Pierre-d'Albigny
La Franquette, in Saint-Jean-de-la-Porte
Le Caveau de la Tour, in Chignin
Aux Fruits de la Treille, in Myans
Les Chambres du Cru, in Jongieux
Les Halles, in Chambéry
L’Atelier, in Chambéry
Le Panoramic, in Saint-Alban-Leysse
Auberge Saint-Vincent, in Apremont
Le K'Ozzie, in Les Marches
La Maison Rouge, in Barberaz
Chateau des Comtes de Challes, in Challes-les-Eaux
Les Morainières in Jongieux
Association promoting Savoy’s grape varieties
Maison de la Vigne et du Vin
Chef Lieu, 73190 Apremont
- Opening dates and hours
June, July and August : Tuesday to Saturday from 10am to noon and from 2.30pm to 6pm.
Rest of the year : Monday to Friday from 10am to noon and from 2.30pm to 6pm.
Tel : 0479334416
- Savoie Mont-Blanc tourist office
Tel : 0820007374
The region has a long tradition for winemaking dating back to the Romans and, contrary to what you might think, the climate is not too cold. Most of the vines are indeed planted at altitudes below 500 m on south facing slopes ensuring maximum sun exposure and good ripening.
Wines matching top-notch food
Moreover, if white wines account for 70% of the production, there are also excellent reds, rosés and sparkling. These wines have often a unique character because many of the twenty-three cultivated grape varieties are rarely encountered elsewhere. Seven of them are even only grown there: altesse, gringet, molette, persan, mondeuse blanche, mondeuse noire and jacquère. The latter represents about 50% of all grapes planted and gives dry, fresh and light fruity white wines that are mostly best drunk within two years. Last but not the least, the last few years the local winemakers have worked hard to improve the quality and some of their wines are now able to match top-notch food.
Covering 2150 ha amidst stunning scenery, the vineyard is for 80% located in the Savoie department, near Chambéry, the Bourget lake and along the combe de Savoie.
Apremont, Maison des Vins © T.Joly
The best way to start exploring this area is to go first to the village of Apremont in order to have a look at the Maison des Vins de Savoie. It indeed provides information about the grape varieties, the location of the vineyards, the production methods as well as about the various appellations. A very useful visit as the appellation system is a bit complicated for those coming in the region for the first time.
The main one is the AOC Vin de Savoie awarded to all wines from all vineyards whatever grapes are used. In addition, a more precise geographical indication –place or village –can be tagged on wines produced in certain areas with specific grapes. These “village appellations” are called crus. Lastly, the AOC Roussette de Savoie is given to wines made from altesse grapes and four villages whose soil are perfectly suited to this variety are allowed to add their name to this appellation.
At the feet of Mount Granier
Also selling a large range of wines, this Maison is ideally located on the edge of the Apremont and Abymes, two white wines crus made from jacquère grapes. However, like in all the other appellations “villages”, most of the winemakers also produce reds and whites made from other grape varieties that are simply labelled “Vin de Savoie”. Covering 500 ha, the vines are planted between 300 and 500 meters of altitude on a rugged landscape formed after the collapse of one part of Mount Granier in 1248. A disaster that wiped fifteen villages off the map and took the lives of more than a thousand people. Two villages boasting wine cellars and historical heritage are worth a stop. Myans, nestled around a double-decker church topped by a statue of the Virgin where pilgrims flow since 1248 because – according to the legend – a Black Virgin statue kept in the crypt stopped the rock fall just before the first houses of the village.
Full body red wines
As to Les Marches, it boasts a castle and a medieval district comprising fortified gates and houses. Built on a rocky spur, it also offers a superb view over the Combe de Savoie where flows the Isère River, the Bauges Massif whose slopes are covered with vines and the village of Chignin easily recognizable by its medieval towers. Planted on slopes reaching 20-25° and so only hand picked, the surrounding vines are part of the Chignin and Chignin Bergeron crus. The first one refers both to a white wine made from jacquère and to a red made from pinot noir, gamay or mondeuse. Little-known, the latter gives deeply coloured full body wines with berry fruit flavours, notes of spices and mellow tannins that age wel over time. As to the Chignin Bergeron, it is a white wine of golden yellow hue with hints of apricot and honey made from roussanne grape that can age up to five years.
Rare grape variety
To taste some of the best wines from this area, head to the Tour Villard, the estate of Jean-François Quenard, or to the Cellier des Crays, the estate of Adrien Berlioz, one of the most promising winemaker of the new generation, Adrien Berlioz. Don’t miss to taste his red made from a rare grape variety only grown on few ha, the persan that gives deep purple, full body wines with black fruits and peppery notes.
A little bit further comes Montmelian, a white wine cru made from jacquère. Located at the strategic crossroad between the combe de Savoie and the Cluse de Chambéry, this village was for centuries dominated by a powerful fortress. Today, only ruins remain but a small museum retraces its history. A few blocks away, another museum dedicated to wine evokes winegrowing and vinification through a collection of objects and tools that were used till the middle of the 20th century.
South facing slopes
Vineyard in the Combe de Savoie © T.Joly
From there to Fréteville, half way to Albertville, the right bank of the Isère River is lined with vines growing on south facing slopes or terraces as well as with charming villages. Three of them are also the name of a cru. Cruet, once again a white wine made from jacquère. Saint-Jean-de-la-Porte and Arbin, two red wines made from mondeuse. The second is even considered as the place where this grape gives its best. Taste the wines produced by domaine Genoux at Château Mérande or by Philippe Grisard, based in Cruet, and you will probably agree.
Nearby, go to have a look at the impressive medieval castle of Miolans. Perched on a rocky spur and overhanging the valley, it was first built to defend the kingdom of Savoie and was later turned into a state jail (prison) where Marquis de Sade was jailed.
To taste the Roussette de Savoie made from altesse grape, all you have to do is going right outside Chambéry, at Saint-Alban-Leysse, where the Monterminod cru is produced.
A grape brought back from Cyprus
Marestel hillside © T.Joly
Encroached by urbanisation, this village appellation now only comprises a few hectares of vines planted on steep hillsides surrounding a small castle from where you get a great view of Savoy’s main city. The altesse was introduced there in the 14th or 15th century when it was brought back from Cyprus and gives a golden wine with yellow fruits and almond flavours developing aromas of honey and nuts when aging.
This grape is grown since as long and with as much success on the Marestel hillside, on the western bank of the Bourget lake, less than 30 km away from Chambéry. From the top of the vineyard of this cru there is a nice view of the Rhône valley, on this location still a medium sized river. Below, the village of Jongieux is surrounded by vines and gives its name to two crus. A white wine made from jacquère. A red that can be made from mondeuse, pinot noir or gamay. The two latter grow well on this terroir giving fruity, light yet complex wines. And to end this tour around Savoy, stroll through the vineyards till the Saint-Romain chapel from where you will get a nice view of the Marestel hillside and the Rhöne river.
July 21, 2013