Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Grape Spotlight: Jacquère & Roussette (Altesse)

"On the evening of November 24th, 1248 a tremendous earthquake shook the region causing Mont Granier, the tallest mountain of the Chartreuse Massif, to disintegrate into huge boulders which came crashing down into the valley. Some of these boulders were the size of a house, and 16 villages were crushed and 5,000 lives lost. The church of the Sanctuaire Notre Dame de Myans, however, was spared, though gigantic boulders were stopped abruptly at the very door of the church. Some of these boulders can still be seen around the church grounds" The shrine has been a pilgrimage center since at least the thirteenth century, and its small ‘Black Virgin’ was an object of the devotion of Saint Francis de Sales. -- Our Lady of Myans, Savoy, France
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In the 1980s and only 2 kilometers from this church, Philippe Ravier took over his family's small estate in the Combe de Savoie. He slowly expanded it to the 35 hectares of today with ample plantings of two grapes popular in the Savoy wine region: Altesse & Jacquère. His son Sylvain joined him in 2008 and together they formed Domaine Philippe & Sylvain Ravier. Some of the multiple vineyard sites they farm were created from the Mount Granier landslide such as those near Apremont and Abymes with their soils composed of ancient glacial moraines and marlstone and those in Lac Saint André / Les Marches at the base of Mount Granier.

Further to the northwest, Domaine Gérald Dubreuil resides in the village of Poncin, halfway between Lyon and Geneva, and within the Vin du Bugey wine region.  The family estate has been cultivated for multiple generations and consists of south-facing vines planting in clay-limestone soils.

Within a larger scope, Savoie and Bugey are wine regions in eastern France, in the mountainous areas just south of Lac Léman (Lake Geneva) and the border with Switzerland. While not technically connected under French wine law, Bugey and Savoie are often grouped together since they are close both geographically and produce similar wine styles.  They are very cool climates so most of their wines are white led by Jacquère, Roussette (Altesse), Bergeron (Roussanne), Marsanne, and Chardonnay.  For reds look for Pinot Noir, Gamay, and Mondeuse.  The two main appellations within the regions are Vin de Bugey and Vin de Savoie with numerous Crus and sub-appellations that may appear on labels.  (

Jacquère [jah-kehr] is mostly grown within the crus of the Vin de Savoie appellation -- specifically in the villages of Apremont and Abymes within the shadows of Mont Granier.  Wines from the Jacquère grape are noted for their high acidity, low alcohol, sometimes herbaceous, but clean minerality. We received a Hopwine kit from Domaine Philippe & Sylvain Ravier that included the AOP Vin de Savoie Les Abymes 2019. This wine showed many of these characteristics with its lively citrus profile with racy minerality and lasting acidity. An impressionable wine.

Roussette is the local synonym for Altesse and is considered indigenous to the southern shores of Lake Geneva.  The grape is a late ripener and is usually harvested with a reddish tinge on the berries take which provides Altesse with the synonym, Roussette ("reddish" in French).  When grown in the Roussette de Savoie and Roussette du Bugey appellations the grape is known for producing full-bodied, concentrated wines with floral, nutty characters and good acidity.  The Domaine Philippe & Sylvain Ravier AOP Roussette de Savoie Altesse 2019 is pure elegance with nutty pear flavors and considerable depth before finishing with subtle but lasting acidity.  The Domaine Gérald Dubreuil Roussette du Bugey 2017 provides similar depth and acidity but with more citrus - particularly lingering lemons.  Both show the elegance that Roussette produces in both appellations.  Santé.

Distribution: Wines from Domaine Philippe & Sylvain Ravier are available in Oregon, California, New York, and Massachusetts; whereas Domaine Gérald Dubreuil is looking for a U.S. distributor.

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