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February 2022: AN INTERVIEW WITH WINK LORCH
Author of Wines of the French Alps: Savoie, Bugey and beyond
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You wrote and published your latest book Wines of the French Alps: Savoie, Bugey and beyond quite recently. Why now?
As a skier and mountain lover, I’ve known Savoie wines for decades and have witnessed a great improvement in quality over the years. Especially in the last decade there’s been a big leap, with a move to more sustainable and organic farming, better winemaking and more willingness to export. This has attracted interest from importers around the world, and while exports still remain small, they are growing steadily. There was so little written on the region, especially in English, and no book by an independent author. It was the right time and worked well for me as a follow up to my first book, Jura Wine.
What for you are the most important factors that make Savoie wines so different from other regions?
When you look at the highest snow-capped mountains of Savoie, it seems impossible that vineyards could thrive there. But if you visit in summer, you can appreciate the warmth in the valleys and see the sun-drenched southerly-facing vineyards clinging to the steep sub-Alpine foothills. The grapes benefit from cool nights and a long growing season. But, most important is the fascinating range of indigenous grapes, many of which are exclusive to Savoie. In whites, Jacquère, Altesse and Gringet are among the unique ones; in reds it’s Mondeuse and Persan that are most important, although grapes from nearby regions like Bergeron for whites (which is the Savoie name for Roussanne) and Gamay or Pinot Noir for reds produce quite different wines in Savoie than in their homelands. All of them give wines with relatively low alcohol and lovely freshness and elegance, with direct vibrant fruit and floral characters. In brief, they are really suited to today’s emerging taste for lighter wines.
Do you have any favourite food matches for white Savoie wines?
Matching cheese to white Savoie wines gives endless pleasure. In the region, of course the cooked cheese dishes like fondue, tartiflette or raclette are the famous matches, but with the best white wines, it’s well worth putting them together with a cheese plate. Altesse is hugely versatile not just with different cheeses but with firm lake and river fish especially and light meat dishes, it can take mildly spiced food too. As for Bergeron, its richness is great with blue cheese and surprise yourself by matching it with pork dishes, especially those with some sweet sour flavours. They make beautiful aperitif wines too.
And what about the reds?
Mondeuse can be a little tough to enjoy on its own, but I so love it with a local Savoie dish of diots, local coarse pork sausages and polenta, laden with Beaufort. You might think polenta is Italian, but the Duchy of Savoie once included north-west Italy, so it was all one Kingdom, therefore polenta is considered a Savoyard dish. Mondeuse has the structure and texture to be versatile with any meaty or sauced dishes. It’s a wonderful grape that ages well, as do the whites, by the way
© Wink Lorch 2022
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