Mountains are geographical features can have interesting and often profound effects on languages and people by insulating them from their neighbors, so why shoud grape vines be any different? The Jura region in the northern French Alps has the pale red pair of grapes Trousseau and Poulsard and its quite peculiar local white, Savignin, three varieties that for all intents and purposes, exist nowhere else. Similarly, in the somewhat more southerly region of Savoie, we can find the oenological oddities of Mondeuse (a red), Roussette (a white), and the subject of this evening’s post, another white grape known as Jacquere.
Despite Jaquere being the most widely planted and productive grape in the Savoie region, its notoriety trails that of both Roussette and Mondeuse, and that’s a shame. Roussette is definitely more corpulent and complex than Jacquere, and of course neither white can match the black cherry and spicy sassiness of Mondeuse, but that said, Jacquere is no also-ran slouch, with its bright, clean minerality, fresh acidity, fragrant green and yellow fruit and Alpine florality.
This wine could be known simply as a Savoie Blanc, and indeed it is one, but because these Jaquere grapes are grown in a small delimited region of the Savoie, it qualifies to carry the cru name “Chignin”, a distinction it shares with several other mostly or entirely Jacquere-based crus like Abymes, Apremont, and Jongieux. But no matter the specific source of Jacquere-based wines, the results are fairly similar. These are wines that tend to achieve only modest levels of alcohol (this one clocks in at 11.5%), and with a typically lean mouthfeel, but what Jacquere lacks in depth and size, it more than makes up for with its pretty, coquettish aromas, its lithe and tidy palate, and its usually long, polished and crisp finish.
As you might infer, Jaquere-based wines pair particulary well with medium-aged cheeses and freshwater fish, especially if it’s fried, so to make the most of this, I paired this mountain madamoiselle with a first course of toasts with melted Tomme de Savoie (keepin’ it strictly regional) cheese studded with bacon lardons, chives and parsley followed by fried catfish in a dill, chervil and tarragon breading with a side of braised radishes.
Charles Gonnet Chignin 2013
Very pale white gold color. Vivacious nose of white peaches, pineapple, sliced pear, minerals, ground ginger, yellow flowers and almond milk. The palate is medium-light with clean, fresh and spunky “sweet and sour” fruit flavors of apple, grapefruit and white currants beautifully supported by notes of egg custard, ground nuts, lilac and pine. Long tonic water finish.