NWC – 31st Jan – Savoie
I decided not to write about last week’s tasting, sake. Whilst it was excellent and illuminating it would have been challenging to summarise succinctly. That said this week there was more to learn with a region I knew little about, Savoie. It’s situated in the South East of France, skiing country and its landscape dominated by mountains. As I understand it whilst wine has been made in the region for some time there is a new wave of making ‘better’ wines and use of indigenous regional grapes, led by Gilles Berlioz. Special mention for the labels of this region, shocking to a bottle. (Majority of these wines sourced by the presenter from vinetrail.co.uk some from Wine Society and some bought in region)
We kicked off with Cremant de Savoie that is from Jean Francois Quenard and available from the Wine Society at £21. At Zero it was a lip smacking start to proceedings. It actually put me in mind of an English sparkling wine, perhaps one with some Seyval Blanc. High acidity, sherbet lemon and granny smith apple. A touch of yeast but little in the way of autolytic characters. At this time of year it felt a bit challenging but on a summers day very refreshing.
We started the still wines with the reds, as is tradition in the region and the first of the grapes I hadn’t encountered before. Persan. Having had a quick look it doesn’t appear to be related to any mainstream grape and its character was quite interesting. The wine was Adrien Berlioz, Octavie, 2022 and was blushingly purple in its youth. The nose was fragrant but green and stalky. The palate was more appealing with some forest fruits and blackcurrant flavours, someone compared it to a Lambrusco, for me a touch like a Mencia I had not long ago. I am clearly out of touch as one theme of the evening for me was the surprise at the cost, this bottle retails for £30 and whilst a good wine it didn’t offer enough enjoyment or interest to consider adding any to my cellar!
Next we had a serious of wines from the Mondeuse grape, another Savoie exclusiv, although it can be found in California now. The first example was from Gilles Berlioz, La Deuze, 2021. It was much more translucent than the first red, still young but more ruby with flashes of purple. This was stalky on the nose again, a little smoke too along with a rubbery twang. Not quite pinotage but not far off. A palate of red apple and red currant with dry tannins was not terrifically more appealing. It was noted this is designed to go with the charcuterie of the region which would have improved it. £25
Mondeuse again but in such a different style was Domaine Cotes Rousses, Coteaux de La Mort, 2018. Immediately this was dense, inky and almost meaty. Much more complex and interesting nose that carried through the palate. Hugh density and extraction with its fruit and black fruits with hints of black olives. Quite a ringer for decent Nothern Rhone for me. Apparently this winemaker is one to watch and I concur. £37
Our final red was a submission from another group member to add to the tasting, a 1995 Mondeuse from Domaine Genoux, Chateau de Merande. Currently they only appear to offer a similar red called N45 but I am sure the range has changed since 1995 so I couldn’t find out much more! Clearly much more mature and browning, as well it would be 30 years down the line. It had a leathery, stock pot nose on it. There was a little dirty, sweet & sour red fruit on the palate with some licks of soy sauce reminding you just how old it was. The older members of the group enjoyed this profile a lot more than I, and whilst it was certainly interesting I found it challenging at best.
Onto the whites and Altesse the first of the grapes here and from Domaine de L’Orchis, Quintessence d’Altesse, 2022. Pale colour, quite a muted note with a touch of waxy aroma but some perfumed honeysuckle and sweet fruits of pear, apricot and a hint of rosewater. Quite a lot praise for this around the room but not my type of wine. £23
Domaine Grangeons, Altesse en Paradis, 2019 was quite a different beast. Immediately a more intense nose, lots of tropical and pineapple alongside a touch of nuttiness. Dare I say pina colada? Good acidity onto the palate and the fruits remain, perhaps dried pineapple here rather than the freshness on the nose. A touch short but food fun and I preferred this of the 2. £26
Finally into the last of the local grapes, Jacquere. Apparently ubiquitous on the local slopes for the punters to glug down alongside their fondue and raclette, just not the more serious examples we were presented with. Serious really was a good adjective for the Cotes Rousses, Armenaz, 2020. Everything here was dialed up to 11. Incredible intensity on the nose and palate coupled with high acidity and a glycerol mouthfeel. Smokey peach, preserved lemon and other citrus whacked you round the chops. I’m not sure anyone agreed with me but I was in GG Riesling territory here, which in relative youth I can find too much. Very interesting to see how this would develop. £26
Back to the legend Gilles Berlioz for his Cricri, 2022 Jacquere. A much shorter note from the evening ‘similar to above but less intensity andmore easy drinking’. It was certainly well made and balanced just really dwarfed by the Cotes Rossuses and suffered by trying to follow it. £34
We finally hit a familiar grape in the shape of Roussane. Noted that it was nice to see no-one trying to made a good Chardonnay ‘just beacuse’ and apparently some areas of Savoie have banned it! We started with another Gilles Berlioz wine, Les Filles 100% Roussanne, 2021. As you might expect we were more golden coloured here than previous whites, deep stone fruits on the noise and a lightly peppered palate with some yellow fruit, unripe plum character. This was my favourite of the Berlioz wines but needed more time but people were impressed, comparing it to a Crozes-Hermitage. £34
Finally we had perhaps the (I am told) cult producer of the region, Domaine des Ardoisieres, with Cuvee Schiste, 2022. By far the biggest jury splitter of the evening. I was pretty firmly voting guilty. A real unappealing nose of cider vinegar but with a caramel and lactic note. The palate was far superior but sometimes you can’t forget that nose. It was balanced and layered, soft but long although I struggled to pick out any truly defining characteristics. You know sometimes you’re left wondering what others see in a wine that you don’t? Some loved it. £60