What to drink in the alps? PFW goes on the Piste…

My extended festive break was very much welcome after the hectic lead up to Christmas. Forward wind past much cooking, eating and enjoying time with friends and family, to the moment that the New Year celebrations were over; down came the Christmas tree and off we sped to the French Alps for a spot of skiing.

Now, although I improve each time I go, I am far from a good skiier. To be honest, I’m more of an apres skiier and although I love being in the mountains and the exercise, my main motivation to ski is to get to the bar. With two under-5’s in tow, this time, apres ski was a little thin on the ground, but that isn’t to say that I didn’t seek out a wine or few.

We skiied in Les Gets, part of the Portes du Soleil, just to the East of Geneva. Wine wise, this is amongst the Vin de Savoie appellation, where the majority of wines are light and white. After a wine filled December and the temperature dipping around zero for most of the holiday, I was in more of the Chocolat Chaud/ Vin Chaud/ Biere Pression frame of mind as opposed to chilled and fresh white wines, I was also remarkably off wine duty so I’m ashamed to report that I didn’t sample a single drop of the local wine. For those of you who were hoping for a Savoie wine review, I profusely apologise and point you to this article here by Wink Lorch, that I wish I’d read before I’d gone and I would’ve shown better form; the Mondeuse red wines as well as the sparkling wines from Ayze made with the Gringet grape, sound most intriguing.

photo (22)Enough about what I didn’t drink (sorry Savoie, I promise I will wear my wine hat and make more of an effort next time) and on to what I did. Of course, this is France, so there were French wines a plenty available. Although the next-nearest French wine region, Burgundy, sits just 120km-ish to the west to Les Gets, head south west and you hit one of my favourite regions, the Rhone. Lucky for me, there was an abundance of Rhone wines to go round, specifically, Southern Rhone wines, and it was the thick and fruity wines from the village of Vacqueyras that caught my attention this holiday – just the ticket to accompany all that cheese.

Vacqueyras neighbours Gigondas, yet expect heavier wines here. AOC rules stipulate just 50% Grenache which means a higher proportion therefore of the weightier Syrah and Mourvedre (to give Gigondas fans an idea, Gigondas must have at least 80% of the juicier Grenache). I sampled the first bottle on our one CHILD FREE night out, which always makes everything taste better! This one was rounded, heavy and very black fruit driven and I was a little disappointed with the lack of acidity, although still very enjoyable in the company. I also don’t doubt that the wine needed more food as we chose to snack on a less than adequate charcuterie board to accompany.

DSC05466The second bottle, enjoyed during a family dinner at the fabulous Le Tyrol restaurant, was much better balanced so still big, blackberries and tannic but perkier than the first and with the cheese fondue was a delight. The Sommelier here has selected an excellent, yet simple selection of wines for his list, so I’d recommend a visit.

If you’re heading to the Alps this year, you’ll be spoilt for choice with wines from all over France, not so many on the New World front, but who needs anything else when you’re in France? I urge you to try the local fare and let me know what you think. If you like ’em big, red and heavy where ever you are, a Vacqueyras will do you proud. When something a little lighter in palate and personality is more appropriate, perhaps to wash down your lunch of Reblochon before you head back to the slopes, although a Kronenbourg may quench your thirst , a glass of easier going Cotes du Ventoux would be just the ticket.

I’m now back and raring to go, so Happy New Year and I’ll see you soon with some of your favourite wines and new tipples to come!

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