Sunday, August 31, 2008

Savoie - Chautagne

At last the weather was sunny and we were off to visit more of La France Profonde – La Chautagne.

Chautagne is one of the 20 or so small areas in the AOC region of Savoie: there are about 1800ha of vines scattered hither and thither in Savoie where the altitude and slopes allow for wine growing.

With Griselda (my Garmin Nüvi GPS, which can be a tad temperemental but never argumentative) we set off to drive via Annecy through peaceful countryside and then the gorge at Val-de-Fier, with its dams, reaching Serrières en Chautagne to visit a small producer there, Domaine de Verronet.

We rang the bell at the door which connected us to Madame who was working in the vineyard, who said that she would be along in a moment. When she arrived we tasted a range of wines in the little tasting room adjacent to the cellar.

With about 10ha of vines (some rented) 80% are red and 20% white varieties. Chautagne is the exception that makes the rule as Savoie as a whole produces a lot more white than red and rosé. we had a look at the vineyard behind the property before continuing on our way.

We then drove up through the vineyards to find Jacques Maillet. A charming man totally dedicated to making wines with character. After a serious illness in 2002 he reduced his vineyards from 6.5ha to 2.5ha and now produces wine biodynamically, with a loathing of machinery!

We enjoyed a vertical tasting of all his Autrement from its first vintage in 2004 (he now only has 9 bottles left!) to a tank sample of 2007. The wine is a blend of Gamay, Pinot Noir and Mondeuse - some of the latter vines are 107 years old.

I enjoyed all the vintages especially the earliest: pale in colour, which is typical of the red wines of Savoie, with a touch of minerality on the nose with lots of gorgeous ripe fruit - and a touch of heather!

We completed our tasting with a fine aperitif: Jacques' first white, Jacquère 2007 which was delicious. What a great guy!

We had a straightfoward lunch at the Auberge de Motz, a building that had been extensively refurbished by the village council using some of the income generated by the use of the electricity company's hydro-electric dams in its borough.

After lunch we drove through past more vineyards to Ruffieux...

...where we visited the Maison de Chautagne. The home of the local cooperative it also has a very good interactive wine museum as well as a large shop selling their wines as well as other local produce.

Our last visit of the day was to Chanaz, a pretty little tourist town on the Canal de Savières. The canal connects the river Rhône with the Lac de Bourget, the largest lake in France. Boat trips are popular on this waterway which can flow either way depending on the height of the river.

After a visit of the local watermill and a cup of tea we returned home using Griselda to guide us. True to form she found the most direct route which meant travelling up a steep, narrow road by the Lac de Bourget, the trickiness of which was compensated by terrific views of the lake.

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