It was on a lift at Squaw Valley about 10,000 feet in elevation that I recognized that the woman I was squeezed next to had a French accent. She and her husband grew up skiing at Chaminix in the French Alps, she told us, then she revealed that she grew up in Jura and her husband in Savoie.
Of France’s 13 regions, the wines of Savoie may be some of the least well known as only 5% leave the region, but the tiny region which only produces about .55% of France’s overall production is considered one of the most picturesque in the world. Most of the wine produced is white, with 20% red, 6% rose, and 4% sparkling.
Located in France’s Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes region, far east on the map above in turquoise, Savoie is solidly in the French Alps between Haut-Savoie and Isère.
While the Alps in Italy, Switzerland, and Austria go east to west, the French Alps travel south from Switzerland to the Mediterranean.
While the average altitude is a lofty 1,500m with 36 peaks over 3,500m tall, vineyards are located much lower, between 250 and 450m above sea level.
Not to be confused with New Jersey’s Chicken Savoy, Chicken Savoie is made from the Bresse Chicken, a chicken so special it has its own AOC in this region. Known as the world’s best chicken because its marbled meat has so much flavor, a Bresse hen in France can cost up to $200.00 U.S. dollars, and generally around 20 euros per kilo; the lack of chalk means the bones are lighter and the skin is thinner but still, that’s an expensive chicken! Learn more about what makes chicken bresse special.
Like the wines of Savoie, only 5% of the chicken from Bresse AOC make it out of the region; this writer found one in London and he compared its flavor with other “designer” chickens in this taste off. Since 2011, Bresse chickens have been imported in to the US and raised here. These are now called American bresse due to import restrictions, but they are still rare. As I was unable to source one, we made do with the best chicken around, a fresh free range one one that grew up eating insects and mostly corn fed finished from The Ventura Meat Company.
But how exactly to prepare the chicken? Especially on a week night when we didn’t exactly have 2-3 hours to cook it in a dutch oven?
In Alpine Cooking Meredith Erickson says she relies on these rules for her recipes: “Butter is unsalted. Cream is heavy. Eggs are large. Herbs are fresh. Milk is whole. Olive oil is mainly extra-virgin; unless I’m frying, in which case I use plain olive oil or grapeseed oil. Stock is made from bones, mirepoix, and aromatics simmered in unsalted water, and should be used wherever possible. Broth is the store-bought low-sodium equivalent. Sugar is granulated” (p. 11).
Meredith Erickson should know: Alpine Cooking combines cookbook with travelogue to showcase the regional cuisines of the alpine peaks in Italy, Austria, Switzerland, and France with recipes and stories she gathered during seven years traveling through the Alps by car, on foot, via funicular– and by skis and snowmobiles too. In 350 pages with over 200 mouthwatering, gorgeous photographs by Christina Holmes and maps by Samuel Bucheli, Alpine Cooking is organized by country and includes recipes (with measurements in cups AND in grams!), maps, travel hacks, and and an eclectic narrative full of fun tidbits like the fact that the first Tour de France was held there in 1903 and skiing debuted there for the Olympics in the 1924 Winter Games in Chamonix.
Some of her must try cheeses of the region are “Abondance•Beaufort•Comté•Mont d’Or•Raclette•Tomme de Savoie•Reblochon•Bleu de Bonneval•Bleu du Vercors-Sassenage•Persillé des Aravis•Persillé de Tignes.”
“If you see any of the cheeses for sale, I recommend you buy it, as it’s an aromatic and direct, fresh sample of the terroir,” writes Meredith Erickson (p. 269). “Stéphane Pliot from Chèvrerie de la Closette is a great example of an independent cheesemaker to look out for.” We certainly found this true on our trip to Poire!
“Some people come to the Alps for the mountains, not for the food. (Can you believe it?) They eat for sustenance, hurrying to get back on the hills while there is time in the day. If this rings a cowbell, this recipe is for you: a fondue Savoyarde in brioche form—no utensils, no fondue set, nositting down. Bake it, wrap it up, stuff it in your pocket, and go.”
While she includes — of course!– not one but two recipes for fondue, we took the easy way out and I bought an already prepared one from Sprouts– all we had to do was heat it up and put it in the fondue pot! Sue roasted broccoli, sweet and russet potatoes, cooked two sausages, and cut into chunks a nice fresh loaf of bread.
Next time we make it from scratch, we will try her authentic Swiss or Savoyard recipe. And the recipe I am DYING to try (okay have SUE make for me!) is “Duck Magret with Pont-Neuf Polenta” — omg… The poached trout looks fabulous and it would be wonderful with the two wines of Savoie we tasted, too.
What she doesn’t include, however, is a recipe for bresse chicken…and since I flipped through every page of the book looking, I really don’t think it is there. Fortunately, the inter webs offers plenty of ideas, and we went with one that riffed off of a recipe from the famous Lyon chef, Paul Bocuse, and that wouldn’t require 2-3 hours of cooking in a Dutch oven!
SAVOIE SWEETHEARTS CHICKEN WITH OYSTER AND SHITAKE MUSHROOMS
Mushroom Cream Sauce
- 1/4 c. butter
- 1/4 c. flour
- 2 – 3 c. hot chicken stock (Sue made a stock using the back of the chicken)
- salt and pepper to taste
Make a roux by melting butter in a sauce pan, then add flour, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon until golden. Add chicken stock whisking to form a gravy. Season with salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Simmer on low, whisk periodically; prep other ingredients.
- up to one pound fresh cleaned and sliced mushrooms; we used 4 oz shiitake, 4 oz oyster; dried morels are traditional
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
Coat bottom of pan in olive oil and heat; sauté mushrooms; season with salt and pepper.
- 1/2 c. shallot, finely diced
- 2 T. butter
- 1/2 c. dry white wine
- 1/2 c. french white vermouth
- 3 large sprigs of tarragon
- 1 c. half n half
Melt butter, add shallot, and cook until soft. Add wine, vermouth, and tarragon; cook until reduced by half. Add cooked mushrooms and sauté for another couple minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed. Remove tarragon. Add chicken stock to velouté if too thick. Add the mushroom/shallot mixture to the velouté. Whisk in half and half. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
Chicken and Potatoes
- one chicken cut into pieces with skin and bones
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
- chunks of 4-6 potatoes on a cooking sheet with oil and seasonings
- 24 oz. fresh spinach (4 0z. per person)
- olive oil or butter
Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Cook spinach.
2017 Masson Vielle Vigne Traditionnelle Savoie Blanc 2017, SRP $19
Apremont Alcohol 12%
Sample provided by Benson Marketing for my review consideration and participation; thank you!
Organically grown and 100% Jacquère; in Savoie, 27 vineyards are certified AB or “in conversion to organic farming”.
We felt that the Sauvignon Blanc glass was a good choice to serve this wine in.
Color: Buttercup, pale gold,
Nose: Minerals, citrus leaves, grass, ocean breeze, sand dunes
Palate: White peach or nectarine up front with a lovely citrus finish with lingering acidity, nice viscous mouthfeel
Pairing: We roasted and seasoned the veggies for our fondue and I felt that this is a must. Really good with the roasted broccoli and the fondue, bringing out the minerals in the wine. Great with the roasted potato and fondue. While the veggies were great, the bread made the fondue shine. Fondue in general works really well with the wine. So wonderful with the chicken. The finish of the two goes on and on forever.
2017 Domaine Pascual & Annick Quenard Chignin SRP $22
Vin de Savoie AOP; 11.5% alcohol; Jacquère grapes
Sample provided by Benson Marketing for my review consideration and participation; thank you!
Over 50% of the white wines in the region are made from the Jacquère grapes. Typically light, mineral and fresh, they’re enjoyed young and paired with cheese fondue, tartiflette or sea foods.
Wines here are naturally fermented wine, with malolactic to bring more complexity and better stability, and very low doses of sulfur when bottling.
We found this to be a very interesting wine and worthy of contemplation. We enjoyed paying attention to what the wine was doing.
Color: Pale gold, bright light yellow
Nose: Faint ciitrus blossom, light notes of petrol, sea grass, lemongrass, clay, fast moving mountain stream, bit of pineyness, stone, granite
Palate: Fresh, tart, fresh lemon, lemon zest, clean and refreshing, sour grass
Pairing: While we enjoyed contemplating the complexity of the wine, we couldn’t wait to have something to pair with it. While this wine was also nice with the fondue we preferred the fondue with the other wine. This wine loves the tarragon in the mushroom sauce. It likes the saltiness of the meal. The mushrooms, the cream and the tarragon, hits it out of the ball park. Intense rich things mellow out the acidity of the wine and in the spinach as well.
Sue, “I use tarragon very lightly because it is an herb that can take over any dish. I used a lot of tarragon in this dish and this wine handled it very well.”
The cleanliness of the wines cut through the richness of the meal as well as the acidity of the spinach. I was really surprised, I did not think the wine would stand up to this creamy rich meal. It cuts through but does not fight with it either. And
I was super grateful there were leftovers to enjoy another night!
Who else is writing about what this month?
- Jeff at Food Wine Click! has us Warm Up by the Fireplace with Raclette and Vins de Savoie.
- Rupal the Syrah Queen pairs Savoie Wines and Tartiflette –Mountain Wines with Mountain Fare.
- Nicole at Somm’s Table is Cooking to the Wine: Altesse Roussette de Bugey Montagnieu with Crab and Veggie Gratin.
- Cindy at Grape Experiences offers A Quintessential Pairing:Wines from Savoie and Savory Herbed Cheese Fondue.
- Liz from What’s In that Bottle shouts about Alpine Wine Alert: Wines from France’s Savoie Region are Awesome.
- Pinny from Chinese Food & Wine Pairings shares André et Michel Quenard Gamay from Savoie and Roasted Chicken Drizzled with Ginger Scallion Infused Oil.
- Here at Wine Predator we are making Chicken and Savoie for Sweethearts, Fondue for Friends.
- Susannah at Avvinare shares Brie and Bacon Quiche With Vin de Savoie Wine.
- Jane from Always Ravenous has Raclette Paired with Savoie Wines.
- Wendy from A Day In the Life on the Farm goes on A Gastronomic Visit to Savoie.
- Terri at Our Good Life pairs Vin de Savoie and Seafood Pasta with Lemon Butter Sauce.
- David from Cooking Chat makes Potato Bacon Skillet Casserole –Tartiflette Inspired Recipe for Savoie Wine.
- Camilla from Culinary
Adventures With Camilla presents A Taste of #vindesavoie: Älpermakkaronen+ 2018 JP & JF Quenard Vin de Savoie Chignin.
- Linda at My Full Wine Glass gets into Savoie wine – a non-skier’s reason to visit the French Alps.
- Jen at Vino Travels pairs Garlic Buttered Shrimp over Polenta with the Wines of Savoie.
- And host Jill at L’Occasion presents An Interview With Author Wink Lorch + A Savoie Wine Pairing.
Check out our twitter chat by following the hashtag #WinePW; these are the discussion questions:
- 2/8/2020 11:00 a.m. EST
- Welcome to the #WinePW chat on #vindesavoie. Introduce yourself, and where you are tweeting from. Share a link to your blog if applicable.
- 2/8/2020 11:07 a.m. EST
- Q1 We are talking about #vindesavoie this morning for today’s #WinePW. Savoie is located in eastern France, south of Lake Geneva in a mountainous area on the Swiss border. Is it new to you?
- 2/8/2020 11:14 a.m. EST
- Q2 Some participants obtained samples from #vindesavoie + a review copy of Alpine Cooking by Meredith Erickson. Do you feel like these were a good introduction to the region? #WinePW
- 2/8/2020 11:21 a.m. EST
- Q3 Which wines did you open from #vindesavoie? Share a picture and your tasting notes. #WinePW
- 2/8/2020 11:28 a.m. EST
- Q4 What dish did you prepare? How was the pairing? Share a link or photo with #WinePW.
- 2/8/2020 11:35 a.m. EST
- Q5 Have you been to Savoie, France? If so, what restaurants, hotels, wine estates or other places do you recommend? #WinePW
- 2/8/2020 11:42 a.m. EST
- Q6 #WinePW participants, have you covered other Alpine regions near to Savoie? What makes Savoie unique from these areas?
- 2/8/2020 11:49 a.m. EST
- Q7 What did you learn about the culture of Savoie through tasting #vindesavoie with #WinePW?
- 2/8/2020 11:50 a.m. EST
- Q8 What did you learn about Savoie throughout the seasons of the year? #WinePW
- 2/8/2020 11:57 a.m. EST
- Q9 #WinePW Any final thoughts about #vindesavoie? Are you excited to take a trip to France now?
- 2/8/2020 11:59 a.m. EST
- Next month #WinePW will be focusing on a unique cookbook theme hosted by @always_ravenous. Join us!
- 2/8/2020 12:00 p.m. EST
- Thanks for joining #WinePW to chat about #vindesavoie. Enjoy the weekend!