It’s fair to say that I’m clumsy, particularly when it comes to mobile phones – agreeing to insure me was possibly the worst decision my insurance provider could make. For example, last month I broke my Samsung S4 by dropping it approximately 30 feet onto a squash court – if you haven’t played squash before, I can tell you that the hard floor is pretty unforgiving not just on your knees but on phones too. When I finally got my phone repaired last week, the most recent images saved were from a skiing trip I went on a few months earlier. Looking through the photos jolted my memory about the excellent food and wine pairing opportunities I had during that week in the French Alps.
For those of you that have not yet been to Courchevel, I can assure you that it is truly a gastronomic paradise. Yes, the skiing is fantastic: a lift pass to “Les Trois Vallés” opens the door to 600km of ski slopes – that’s comparable to more than 14 marathons – facilitated by an impressive and efficient network of 183 ski lifts. However, it’s only after the skis are taken off that the fun (and debauchery) really begins.
By the way, Courchevel is possibly the only place on earth where you can burn 2,000 extra calories exercising during the day but still go home 5 kilograms heavier. Just saying.
In wine speak, the wine-producing area located around the foothills of the Alps is classified as the Savoie region (spelt Savoy in English but I will refrain from using that spelling on the grounds that it butchers the word). Unfortunately Savoie wine is not particularly accessible in the UK – much of the wine is used for domestic consumption rather than export – but it is very much available in and around the region. If you’re skiing in the Alps, Savoie wine usually represents excellent value for money – it’s often higher up on the wine list (read: cheaper) but that absolutely does not mean the wine is no good.
So what’s it all about?
Savoie wines are primarily white (roughly three quarters of all wine produced). You won’t find much regular joe Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling here, no sir. The grapes used are quite obscure and unknown to most: Jacquère, Altesse, Gringet and Roussanne. You would probably struggle to find some of these grapes elsewhere! The white wines produced in this region are known for their minerality, acidity and notes of citrus, apple and pear. Depending on the composition of grapes, some wines can also be pretty floral and aromatic too. Savoie whites are delicious with chicken and seafood; they have the acidity to cut through creamy sauces; I also find them to be excellent with cheese fondue (known in the area as Fondue Savoyard) and raclette. These wines don’t tend to age well so best enjoyed young.
The region produces red wines too – the main grape variety used is Mondeuse. Other notable grapes grown in Savoie are Gamay (the same grape used in Beaujolais) and Pinot Noir – both producing wines that are fairly light in style. These wines can be paired with a variety of dishes depending on the grape and age, including salmon, veal, chicken, chèvre (goat cheese).
Although I’m absolutely dreading the onset of winter (the days have been getting shorter since June 21st – a source of great stress for me), my annual skiing trip is something I’m already very excited about. There’s simply nothing like enjoying a glass of Savoie white alongside a lunch of chèvre chaud salad while overlooking Mont Blanc. There’s also nothing like sipping on a Savoie red while sitting in front of a warm and cosy fireplace after an intense day of skiing.
I’m already counting down to March 2015. Anyone want to join?
PS. the new release of Grapeful is now available for iPhone as well as Android. It has a whole host of exciting new features, including the ability to search for wines and wine styles, and also the ability to explore wines by country, retailer, style and occasion. I hope you like it – and as usual feedback is always welcome. If you haven’t downloaded the app yet, you can get it for free from the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store.