Savoie is a stunning area in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of France. It is located in the south-eastern part of metropolitan France, and it is surrounded by high snow-capped mountains, wooded valleys, rushing streams and placid lakes.
Historical sources believe that the area’s name comes from a Celtic word Latinised from Sapaudia (or Sabaudia), meaning “country covered with fir trees”.
This area belonged to the House of Savoy for centuries, and it was annexed to France in March 1860, in exchange for military aid to the Kingdom of Sardinia, in the process of the reunification of Italy.
Savoie’s climate is continental, it is highly variable due to oceanic influences from the north and Mediterranean influences from the south. Cold winters, hot summers and a high temperature range between day and night have prompted producers to cultivate short growth cycle grapes.
The soils are mainly calcareous and clayey and the vines are planted mainly on slopes of glacial morainic origin, or on gravel.
The Savoie’s vineyard covers an area of approximately 3,800 hectares, and the most popular training systems are Guyot and Pergola. With over 70% of the total, white grape varieties are the most cultivated: Jacquère, Roussanne (locally known as Bergeron), and Rousette or Altesse. Among the black grape varieties for red or rosé wines, the most popular are Gamay, Mondeuse and Pinot Noir.
Savoie’s AOCs (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) are: Vin de Savoie, Crépy, Roussette de Savoie, Seyssel, Bugey, Roussette de Bugey e Crémant de Savoie.
In this post you will find a deep explanation of the biggest Apellation AOC Vin de Savoie. You will find information related to the other appellations in “Savoie wine – Part II“.
AOC Vin de Savoie
The AOC Vin de Savoie is the main Appellation and includes the entire vineyard of the wine-growing Savoie region. It was recognised in 1973, and with a vineyard area of 1,800 hectares it reaches over 28 villages in Savoy, 20 in Haute-Savoie, 2 in Ain and 1 in Isère. The rules of wine production admit red, white and rosé, still, semi-sparkling and sparkling wines.
The vineyard is mainly planted on the hills, often on ancient glacial moraines or gravel. The terroirs are very different because of the extension and the fragmentation of the vineyards.
A geographical term can be added to the AOC Vin de Savoie Appellation that identifies the 15 Crus: Abymes, Apremont, Arbin, Ayze, Chautagne, Chignin, Chignin-Bergeron or Bergeron, Cruet, Jongieux, Marignan, Marin, Montmélian, Ripaille, Saint- Jean-de-la -Porte and Saint-Jeoire-Prieuré.
With over 70% of white wine production, white grape varieties predominate: Jacquère, Roussanne (locally called Bergeron), Rousette (or Altesse), Chasselas and Gringet. The red and rosé wines are mainly made from Gamay, Mondeuse, Pinot Noir and Persan (a local grape which has almost disappeared).
AOC Vin de Savoie’s Cru
Vin de Savoie Abymes
The AOC Vin de Savoie Abymes is located in the heart of the Cluse de Chambéry, a short but wide valley at the bottom of the pre-Alpine massifs. The vineyard of 300 hectares reaches over 4 municipalities: Apremont, Chapareillan, Myans and Les Marches.
The soil is made up of gravel and calcareous moraines, and is the result of the crumbling of a part of Mont Granier that dominates the valley, which happened in 1248.
The Appellation represents about 20% of the production of Savoie’s white wines.
Jacquère, a very productive and late ripening indigenous grape variety, adapts very well to the harsh and changing climate of Savoie.
The wines have a straw-yellow colour, and offer citrus hints with delicate notes of almond and flint. They also show a certain roundness. These wines should be appreciated in their youth because Jacquère grapes have a tendency for oxidation.
Vin de Savoie Aprement
The AOC Vin de Savoie Apremont reaches the municipalities of Apremont, Les Marches and Saint-Badolph. This Appellation represents the milestone for the mass market because it has the largest production of the region.
The vineyard is well exposed to the south/south-east and is located on the slopes of the Cluse de Chambery, on the stony slopes of Mont Granier.
The most cultivated variety is Jacquère, a very productive native grape with late ripening.
Refinement on the fine lees and early bottling characterises the wines of this Appellation.
The wines have a pale straw-yellow colour, with citrus, floral and hints of green almond aromas. They should be consumed young as the Jacquère grape has a tendency for oxidation.
Vin de Savoie Arbin
The AOC Vin de Savoie Arbin is located between Chambéry and Albertville, on the sunny side of the right bank of the Isère river, in Combe de Savoie.
The vineyard reaches about 30 hectares on the south-facing slopes and is next to the Montmélian vineyard. Arbin is well known for the Mondeuse grape.
The soil of this geological area is very peculiar, under the usual gravel and calcareous marl, a “black earth” layer emerges (a substrate of oxfordian marl, also present in Burgundy).
Mondeuse d’Arbin is a wine of personality and roundness, and with a ruby red colour and purple reflections, it develops pleasant notes of violet, rosemary and raspberry with a seductive finish of truffle.
Vin de Savoie Ayze
The AOC Vin de Savoie Ayze reaches over 22 hectares in the Haute-Savoie area, with an altitude between 450 and 560 metres. The vineyard benefits from good southern exposure on the lower slopes of the Chablais.
The mainly clayey soil is covered with gravel.
The Gringet grape represents only 1% of the vineyard in Savoie, cultivated only in the Côte d’Avre where it is perfectly acclimatised, and makes typical mountain wines.
The wines have a straw-yellow colour with light golden reflections. Their aromas are of exotic fruit, sweet almonds, spices and even honey if they are harvested with slightly overripened grapes.
Vin de Savoie Chautagne
The AOC Vin de Savoie Chautagne takes its name from the Chautagne region, surrounded by the AOC Seyssel vineyard to the north and the Lac du Bourget to the south.
The 230 hectares of the Chautagne vineyard dominate the Rhone river on its left bank and reach the municipality of Chindrieux, Motz, Ruffieux and Serrières-en-Chautagne.
The Appellation is characterised by a micro-climate that is more like the vineyards cultivated at milder latitudes than the Savoie ones.
The vines are grown at an altitude between 250 and 300 metres, and are cultivated on moraine and sandstone soils on the western slope of the Montagne du Gros-Foug.
The Appellation is sheltered from strong winds by the influence of the lake; winters are mild and summers are hot, with light rainfall. With an average annual temperature of 20 °C, Chautagne deserves the name of “Provence de Savoie”.
AOC Chautagne is well known for its red wines, which represent almost a quarter of the red wines of Savoie.
The area, with an important presence of Mediterranean vegetation (almond and olive trees), represents the perfect terroir for Gamay, although white wines are produced from Jacquère, Roussette or Altesse and Aligoté.
Gamay, with Mondeuse, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon, gives intense ruby coloured wines, which are warm and really bodied releasing hints of cherry, raspberry and strawberry.
Vin de Savoie Chignin
The AOC Vin de Savoie Chignin is on the southern end of the Cluse de Chambery, facing the vineyards of Abymes and Apremont.
On the side of the Bauges cliffs, the vineyards are well exposed to the south/south-west and sheltered from the northern winds by the surrounding massifs.
The limestone gravel slopes at the top of the vineyard are mainly dedicated to white grape varieties, mostly Jacquère. The most famous Chignin white wines have a bright straw-yellow colour, delicate fruity scents and are distinguished by subtle notes of hazelnut and apple.
The black grape varieties, Mondeuse, Gamay and Pinot Noir, prefer the lower part of the slopes and the calcareous marly soil, reminiscent of those of the Rhone Valley. The wines have a bright ruby red colour, offer a seductive aromatic range of fruit aromas: raspberry with a truffle finish for Mondeuse, cherry and strawberry for Gamay, blackberry and dry plum for Pinot Noir.
There is another Appellation on the same terroir, the AOC Vin de Savoie Chignin-Bergeron; it is reserved for wines made exclusively from the Roussanne grape.
Vin de Savoie Chignin-Bergeron o Bergeron
The AOC Vin de Savoie Chignin-Bergeron or Vin de Savoie Bergeron is produced in the same terroir of the AOC Chignin, exclusively in dedicated plots, in the municipalities of Francin and Montmélian.
The Appellation identifies the white wines produced by the Roussanne grape, a typical grape of the region and the nearby Rhone valley, locally called Bergeron.
The marly-calcareous soil gives the wine personality, elegance and at the same time a certain power.
The wines have a golden colour with complex and persistent aromas of lemongrass and magnolia, but also of more delicate fruits such as apricots or peaches.
Vin de Savoie Cruet
The AOC Vin de Savoie Cruet reaches about 70 hectares in the municipality of Cruet, on the sunny side of the right bank of the Isère river, between Chambéry and Albertville. The winemaking rules admit white, red and even some rosé wines.
The geological composition of the soils is the typical one of the Combe de Savoie, mainly gravelly soil with limestone and marl.
The main grape variety for white wines is Jacquère, followed by Chardonnay or Roussette (locally called Altesse).
White wines from Jacquère have strong minerality and offer citrus and fruity hints. Red wines are mainly made from Mondeuse and Gamay, and less often from Pinot Noir or Persan.
Vin de Savoie Jongieux
The AOC Vin de Savoie Jongieux is located on the western slope of Mount du Chat. It has about 100 hectares of plots, split between the municipalities of Billième, Longieux, Lucey, St-Jean-de-Chevelu and Yenne.
The soil consists mainly of marly limestone, often covered with gravel.
White wines are mainly produced from Jacquère, a typical grape from Savoie, while the red ones, which represent the largest production, are Gamay based.
As with the AOC Vin de Savoie Chautagne, the Gamay grape is blended with Pinot Noir and Mondeuse, to offer a range of fine wines, to be enjoyed in their youth.
The wines offer strong hints of wild berries and rose, with a roundness when blended with Pinot Noir and a tannic finish when made with Mondeuse.
Vin de Savoie Marignan
The AOC Vin de Savoie Marignan is located in the municipality of Sciez in Haute-Savoie, on the shores of Lake Geneva.
The vineyard extends for about 10 hectares on soil made up of moraine deposits mixed with metamorphic or sedimentary ones.
The wines are produced in limited quantity, mainly by Chasselas. They have a pale straw-yellow colour and develop floral, citrus and tropical aromas, with an elegant mineral note to finish.
Vin de Savoie-Marin
The AOC Vin de Savoie Marin is located south of Lake Geneva, in the Bas-Chablais, in the municipalities of Marin and Publier.
The 15 hectare vineyard is on the hills and terraces overlooking the river Dranse, a little further away from Lake Geneva and the nearby Appellations of Ripaille, Marignan and Crépy.
In this Appellation, sometimes the growing of the vines follows the ancient typical tradition, in which the vines grow along chestnut poles planted in the ground. Although it is now a disused type of grape growing, it seems to have advantages linked to the distance from the ground, as the vines would be less subject to spring frosts and less susceptible to disease.
The production is limited only to white wine from Chasselas, a grape that has found its ideal conditions here, to express to the maximum its hawthorn and almond aromas.
Vin de Savoie-Montmélian
The AOC Vin de Savoie Montmélian turns out a tiny annual production of less than 100 hectolitres of white and some red wines from Mondeuse, on a few plots (between 1 and 2 hectares), in the municipalities of Francin and Montmélian.
The vineyards of Jacquère, and more recently Roussanne, (or Bergeron) are on a very suitable area on the right bank of the Isère river, where the Combe de Savoie and the Cluse de Chambery meet.
The vineyards, grown since the Roman era, have almost disappeared due to the huge urbanisation of the area which threatens its survival.
Jacquère based wines are very delicate and have characteristics similar to those of the neighboring Appellations of Abymes, Apremont and especially Chignin.
Vin de Savoie-Ripaille
The AOC Vin de Savoie Ripaille is located in Thonon-les-Bains in the north-west of Savoie, on the southern shore of Lake Geneva, and is reserved exclusively for wines produced from the Château de Ripaille vineyard. The 22 hectares, cultivated in Chasselas, represent an iconic vineyard in perfect Bas-Chablais style.
The soil consists of glacial origin formations and gravel. The continental climate is softened and mitigated by the presence of the lake.
Chasselas, traditionally harvested when fully ripe, gives a fresh wine of straw-yellow colour that expresses floral scents of hawthorn, citrus and tropical fruit notes, as well as hazelnuts and sweet almonds.
Vin de Savoie St-Jean-de-la-Porte
The AOC Vin de Savoie Saint-Jean-de-la-Porte is the last Cru that you would find going up from the Combe de Savoie towards Albertville.
About 20 hectares of vineyards, scattered on the greenery-rich slopes of the right bank of the Isère river, produce an average of 1,200 hectolitres of red wine per year.
The wines are a ruby colour with purple hues, that are produced almost exclusively by the Mondeuse grape, with additions of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. They are characterised by delicate notes of berries and violets, with a light spiciness and pleasant truffle finish.
Vin de Savoie St-Jeoire-Prieure
The AOC Vin de Savoie Saint-Jeoire-Prieuré identifies with white wine made from a small vineyard, spread over just 20 hectares, southwest of Chambery, on calcareous marly soil.
As with most of the wines of Cluse de Chambery, the main grape used in this Appelation is Jacquère (at least 80% of the blend), although Roussette (locally called Altesse) grows very well in the lower areas too.
The wines have a straw-yellow colour with greenish reflections, show good acidity and develop aromas that mix fruity, herbaceous and mineral notes (very close to those of the wines produced in the nearby Chignin Appellation).
Credits: Avis Vin Le Figarò | Fédération Nationale des Producteurs et Élaborateurs de Crémant