The 'Little Local Wine'

The wine country of Savoie is diffuse and its produce hardly known," wrote Hugh Johnson in The World Atlas of Wine. "It epitomizes the 'little local wine' which travels only in legend." Some of these wines are indeed fragile. Others are just thin. But some Savoyard wines are sheer delights, and some of them do travel. And that's no legend.

The region is best known for its white wines, primarily the petillant (faintly sparkling) seyssel, made from the chasselas grape, which yields fine white wine in Switzerland. Crepy is also made from chasselas. It is usually petillant, as well, and said to have the scent of hawthorn. Apremont, chignin, and roussette are lively and refreshing. And chignin-bergeron, which is made from roussane, one of the important white-wine grapes of the Rhone, can be surprisingly complex.

There are some red wines produced in the Savoie, too—a few from gamay or pinot noir, but the best from a variety known as mondeuse. Though poor mondeuse is very poor indeed: light, acidic, and insipid, the good stuff is rich and spicy. More than one authority has pointed out its resemblance to syrah.