The spotlight has been shining on Savoie* wine since Wink Lorch published her authoritative book Wines Of The French Alps (available to buy directly from Wink hereand check out David Crossley’s review here) in July 2019. The area is on France’s eastern borders with Italy and Switzerland – and in fact only became a permanent part of France in 1860 when it was ceded by Italy under the Treaty of Turin.
Savoie is actually further north than you might think** – in the outline map above it is level with Cognac – and given its Alpine elevation it is distinctly cool. The main grape varieties of the area are Altesse (aka Roussette), Gringet, Jacquère, Mondeuse and Roussanne (aka Bergeron), with all but Roussanne being indigenous. In the more frost prone areas only local varieties are hardy enough, and the long growing season brings out their aromatic qualities.
Fabien Trosset comes from a well-established winemaking family with a speciality for Mondeuse, the key red variety of Savoie. He and his partner Chloé took over some family vineyards in 2011 and added more from another branch in 2013, taking their total to 16 hectares. The soils are either limestone or clay and the aspect is generally south-facing. The vines are up to 90 years old for some of the Mondeuse plots, 30 for their Altesse and 15 for Roussanne. The wine featured below is made from Jacquère which doesn’t even feature on their website or in Wink’s book, so I’m assuming it’s a very new addition!
Domaine Trosset Savoie “Or Blanc” 2018
“Or Blanc” translates as “white gold”, and this seems to be a fitting moniker as the wine is made from 100% Jacquère, the most important white grape in Savoie. The vineyards are at an altitude of 600 metres above sea-level – higher than any Alsace Grand Cru sites, as a comparison. This is a wine which could be pictured in the dictionary for the definition of “freshness”: a chalky minerality dominates, with crisp acidity and gentle garden herbs. There is fruit too in the form of a racy lime streak
A dry wine at just 11.0% is very rare these days, but it doesn’t feel diminished in any way. This is a delicious, interesting wine that deserves to be better known. I’m looking forward to trying some more of Fabien and Chloé’s wines in the future.
Bodegas Roda were founded as recently as 1987 but have already forged a reputation for excellence. They have evaluated over 552 Tempranillo clones before settling on the best 20 to plant going forward. French – rather that American – oak barrels are used for maturation, yet the oak treatment is always in balance with the fruit.
Sela is the “entry level” from Roda, with fruit hand harvested from 15 to 30 year old bush vines. Maturation is for 12 months in seasoned French oak. Of course, this wine could be labelled as a Crianza, but that term has a cheap and cheerful image in Spain, definitely not fitting for Bodegas Roda! The blend is 87% Tempranillo, 7% Graciano and 6% Garnacha giving fresh red and black fruit. Sela is an easy drinking style but also has the elegance to be served at the table.
The Roda Reserva is a clear step up from the Sela. While the blend is almost identical – 86% Tempranillo, 6% Graciano and 8% Garnacha – the vines are all over 30 year old and yields are lower, both aiding concentration. Alcoholic fermentation is in French oak vats followed by malolacic fermentation in French oak barrels (40% new, 60% second use) where the wine then matures for 14 months. When bottled the Reserva is kept in Roda’s cellars for a further two and a half years before release.
The nose has red and black cherries, strawberries and raspberries with vanilla and smoky notes from the oak, and hints of cinnamon. The wine feels thick and viscous in the mouth with the fruit aromas coming through to the palate. The Roda Reserva is a vibrant wine, still in the flushes of youth, but should continue to evolve for the next decade or two.
The main difference between Roda I and Roda (formerly Roda II) is in flavour profile – for Roda I grapes are picked from old bush vines which tend to show more black fruit characteristics rather than the red fruit of Roda. The blend is Tempranillo dominated (96%) with a seasoning of Graciano (4%). The oak regime is slightly different as well – the barrels are 50% new and ageing in barrel is for 16 months.
While obviously sharing some house similarities with its junior sibling, this is a different wine altogether, much more complex. The nose is more perfumed and expressive with black fruit, smoky oak, earthiness and chocolate. These notes continue through to the palate where some dried fruit and mineral flavours join them. The mouth is voluptuous and soothing. Fine grained tannins help to make a savoury, satisfying dry finish. Although this would be a real treat to drink on its own it would shine even brighter with food.
You can read the full background on this wine in my recent post on the 2012, so I won’t repeat that here. The blend is consistent at 92% Sangiovese and 8% Malvasia Nera & Colorino and the oak regime is the same. The 2015 is from a slightly warmer year so the exact alcohol reading is 14.26% versus 13.73% for the 2012; not a huge difference but an indication of the vintage. This is a fabulous wine, really smooth but tangy and fresh, with red and black fruit bursting out of the glass. Mazzei give it an ageing potential of 20 years but when wine is this good it would be really difficult not to drink now!
It does seem to this cynic that any IGT Toscana with French grapes in the blend is classed as a “Super Tuscan” these days, but this is truly deserving of the epithet. Siepi is named after the six hectare estate vineyard from where the grapes are sourced – one of Mazzei’s best – and has been produced since 1992. The blend is 50% Sangiovese and 50% Merlot; the varieties are picked at different times (17 days earlier for the Merlot which is known to be an early ripener in Bordeaux) and are given different maceration times (14 days for Merlot, 18 days for Sangiovese). Ageing is for 18 months in French barriques, 70% new and 30% used.
This 2016 was released in October 2018 and tasted 12 months later. It was still a little shy and closed, but already showing flashes of its future grandeur. To depart from my usual style of tasting notes, drinking this wine was like sitting in front of a warm fire on a big, well-worn sofa with soft cushions. As I write during Storm Dennis, that would be most welcome!
For winelovers, Christmas is a time when we look forward to drinking – and even sharing – a special bottle or two. This might be a classic wine with traditional fare or just something different we’ve wanted to try for a while. I asked some wine loving friends what they were looking forward to and they have kindly agreed to write a blog post for me.
Mick O’Connell is an Irish Master of Wine working for Findlater & Co, a Wine and Spirits importer with some excellent names in their portfolio.
While I’ve accumulated a decent enough stash of mature wines through the years Christmas is all about drinking youthful wines from Burgundy – they just go so well with the food. This year my Christmas day pair will be Le Grappin Beaune 1er Cru Boucherottes and Maison Róisín Curley’s St Romain Blanc both from the stellar 2015 vintage.
This will be a year of the micro negociants for me. These are young winemakers trying to craft interesting wines from the most hallowed terroir of all, Burgundy. With the various sales of famous domaines this year for ridiculous sums of cash (Clos de Tart rumoured at approx. €33 million per hectare) being a micro negociant is the only option for a generation of people wanting to create their own Burgundy cuvées.
Róisín is a Mayo native who works in Beaune purchasing fruit and then vinifying them in her own facility. Her St. Romain is fabulous. Linear, precise and mineral with the trademark 2015 lusciousness. It’s perfect Christmas wine – it works so well with Turkey dinner with all the trimmings and arguably even better with Stephen’s Day Turkey & Stuffing sambos!
Andrew and Emma Nielsen are the husband and wife team behind Le Grappin who, like Róisín, are also based in Beaune in the old cellars of Fanny Sabre where Philippe Pacalet also worked. Their premier cru Beaune Boucherottes is focused, bright and pure – a glass or two of this and I can happily pass on the cranberry sauce aspect and get all my tart, crunchy red berry fruit in vinous form.
Maison Róisín Curley St Romain Blanc 2015: RRP €51 from Whelehans, Green Man Wines, 64 wines & Wine Library Dun Laoghaire
Le Grappin Beaune 1er Cru Boucherottes 2015:RRP €70 from Green Man Wines