Though the Savoie region, like many other historical wine-producing areas, has grown grapes for wine since ancient Roman times, until recently it was little known beyond its borders. Only in the last 20 years or so has the rest of the world begun to discover it.
Savoie, like most European wine regions, was devastated in the late 19th century by phylloxera, a ravenous aphid that preys on the roots of vitis vinifera, the species to which virtually all European grapevines belong. A solution was finally discovered, grafting vinifera vines onto American rootstocks, which are immune to phylloxera.
This was an arduous process, particularly on steep, hillside vineyards, and many were abandoned. After phylloxera, winemaking continued to decline with World War I, the Great Depression and World War II in quick succession.
“Until as late as the 1970s there were hardly any vine-growers who lived solely from their vines,” said Wink Lorch in her authoritative book “Wines of the French Alps.” “Either they had another job or they were mixed farmers.”
One important turning point, Ms. Lorch suggests, was the development of the postwar ski industry, which created new customers for Savoie wines. This encouraged a new wave of independent vignerons and several 21st century organizations dedicated to preserving the singular grape varieties of the region.
Each of the following 10 wines is typically brisk and refreshing. Only one of them rose as high as 13.5 percent alcohol. Most were 11 percent to 12 percent. I’ve listed them from least to most expensive. If some seem a bit pricey, it’s important to remember that farming on steep slopes is labor-intensive hand work. Many of these producers work organically or biodynamically as well.
Some producers that I adore I was not able to include as I didn’t see their wines. But if you see bottles from Nicolas Gonin, Domaine Giachino or Lambert de Seyssel, snap them up.