The Alps for wine buffs

Words by Matt Hampton

Producing wine in the mountains, where vines may grow at a gradient of 30%, is as much an indication of Alpine stubbornness as anything else. But why should the Alps let Burgundy or Champagne take all the viticultural glory? There are some outstanding wines here, even if their producers do have to work a little harder than their cousins on the plains.

There are around 20 varieties of French Alpine wine, all produced in small batches compared with mainstream varieties. Very little is exported, so whatever you try is likely to be a new experience. The Jacquère grape is one that thrives around Savoie, producing a pale fresh and floral white which is lovely with light dishes and fish. Also look out for Altesse and Roussanne varieties which may be fuller in flavour and are sometimes aged in oak to bring out their richer character. Red wines are less common, but look out for the Monduese variety, which is full of berries and spice.