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The Wine Show: episode four – mountain wine

The Wine Show: episode four – mountain wine

by Amelia Singer Tuesday, May 3, 2016

When Amelia Singer headed to the Mègeve ski resort, she found much more than just mulled wine and hot chocolate.

More from this series:

Amelia is a WSET Diploma-trained wine expert and the founder of events business Amelia's Wine. She has experience of working on vineyards all over the world, and appears on ITV's The Wine Show.

The small wine region of Savoie is sometimes misunderstood, because of its alpine location and reputation for skiing. Ski resorts are the lifeblood of the industry, and being more of an après ski fan as opposed to avid skier, I saw this trip as a great opportunity to reacquaint myself with mountain wines without expecting anything too exciting.

For overall aesthetics and to give a sense of place, Joe and I were expected to ski to our Savoie wine tasting. I have never been the world’s most confident skier and did feel slightly ridiculous being strapped to three Go Pro cameras, but I think they managed to catch a few shots of me looking vaguely confident (luckily we have fabulous editors). My mother saw the post edit clips of me competently handling the slopes and vowed never to trust TV again! Whilst my ski shots should be handled with a mix of caution and bemusement, what followed next at the wine tasting was a genuinely delightful surprise.

Joe and I arrived at the ambient auberge (inn), L’Alpette, ravenous for raclette and fondue. What we did not expect was to be given a Top Gear-esque envelope requesting us to partake in a Savoie wine-off. Our hunger subsided as Joe and I reached for our gauntlets (I mean glasses). I was actually extremely nervous – very few people in the wine trade truly enjoy competitive blind tasting, especially when it’s one based on esoteric wines and is being filmed for national TV. However, we valiantly did our best. I will not reveal the winner, but the mutual outcome was one of absolute disbelief over how delicious the wines were and the incredible range of styles.

Round the mountain

 
 
What better excuse to relive the ski holiday at home with some Reblochon and a glass of undervalued but excellent mountain wine?

Amelia Singer

Due to the grapes coming from steep, sunny mountainside exposures, the wines can range from the extremely fruity to the beguilingly aromatic and downright savoury. They are the perfect companions to the hearty, rustic alpine fare of raclette and charcuterie and are much better value for money in a ski resort restaurant than buying wine from other French regions. There has also been a major improvement in the winemaking during the last thirty years, as wine producers have access to more scientific data and are really beginning to understand their very specific soil and climate.

My personal preference was for the white wines of this region. If you love your white wine fresh and fruity, then you should definitely try wine made from the Jacquere grape. If you prefer your wines to be more aromatic and minerally then go for a Raussette, which is made from the local Altesse grape. My favourite white wine would have to be the Chignin Bergeron, made from the Raussanne grape which is fuller bodied, smells and tastes of peaches and quince and is often underlined by an intriguing savoury nuttiness. Red wine lovers should definitely try Mondeuse – the most prominent red grape in the area. It is related to Syrah, and although you definitely get lots of peppery spice and red fruit, it is a much lighter, fresher style that’s made to be consumed early. The trend for lighter, fresher, low alcohol reds would make Mondeuse an unexpected but solid candidate for contemporary taste.

Although these wines aren’t the easiest to find off the slopes, when you do find them in the UK they are often great value for money as they are so underrated! What better excuse to relive the ski holiday at home with some Reblochon and a glass of undervalued but excellent mountain wine?

 

Hot stuff

Fortified with fondue, Joe and I got back on our skis and headed down to the main square in Megeve. We'd been told by our producer that we would be rewarded for our ‘demanding’ film day with some vin chaud (mulled wine). Kiki, a ruddy-faced local and proud owner of a mulled wine stall, greeted us with a hearty hug and, to our disbelief, another envelope. The wine-off was still in full flow, and this time we were up against the clock. We had to make our favourite vin chaud recipe and the best, as judged by our customers, would receive a prize. The loser would be faced with a forfeit that involved a shovel! With only a few minutes to go before the flood of après skiers arrived, Joe and I wasted no time mulling away. Joe opted for a more traditional recipe based on the local red wine which he mixed with sugar, cinnamon, bay leaves and cardamom. My own mulled wine was a slightly more ‘creative’ concoction that used the ingredients mentioned but also more exotic components, such as star anise, vanilla and spiced rum. I’ve always been told that as a cook I am fairly irrepressible. Watching Kiki’s face as I added more and more ingredients confirmed that opinion.

Serving the thirsty après ski crowd was great fun. Lots of dodgy French was uttered from Joe and I and there was an awful lot of hearty interaction with the customers. It was a close call who the winner was but it will come as no surprise as to whose was voted the more ‘hearty’ mulled wine, ‘for men’. Ahem…

The Wine Show

For more information on all the wines featured in the show, as well as the stories that surround them, check out The Wine Show website: www.thewineshow.com. The show is broadcast on Sundays at 6.55pm on ITV4 and then repeated on Saturdays at 4.25pm on ITV.

 
 
 

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