Wine Shorts – July 10, 2009


The Savoie region of France isn’t well known among wine drinkers in this country. Heck, it’s not well known in France, either, as far as I can tell.

Still, it’s a place that produces interesting, if sometimes quirky wines, a stone’s throw from the Swiss border and Lac Leman (Lake Geneva). The wines, mostly white, are made from Altesse/Rousette, Chardonnay, Chasselas, Jacquere and Rousanne grapes. They also make some light and lively reds mostly from Gamay (the Beaujolais grape) and Pinot Noir, and Rose from Gamay.

Since this is a wine short, I won’t get into all the AOC stuff. I’ll just say that the whites, especially the Jacquere – the name of the wine as well as the grape, unique to Savoie – are really the standouts. Jacquere can produce a very dry, fresh, minerally wine with pronounced floral characteristics.


I’ve been drinking a lot of New Zealand wine lately, and not just Sauvignon Blancs but also some pretty nice Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs and even Rieslings. For example, earlier this week I tasted Torlesse Waipara Riesling 2007 and was more pleasantly surprised that I can say. Nice and dry, too. Americans need to drink more Rieslings, and more NZ wine!

Speaking of NZ, I’m having a typical Friday night dinner – a grilled cheese with bacon, accompanied by a chilled glass of Cuvee Number 8 Sparkling Wine, from New Zealand’s No. 1 Family Estate. This non-vintage wine in the blanc de noirs style is remarkably good, blended from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, with only a hint of strawberry, lots of toast and green apple, appealingly dry but not austere. Really good stuff.

And to answer the question, yes, the “old Zealand” is just “Zeeland”, the Dutch word for “sea land,” referring to a coastal strip of land and islands bordering Belgium. NEW Zealand, logically enough was discovered by a Dutch seaman named Abel Tasman, who also gave his name to nearby Tasmania.