Obscure but delicious Savoie white

For a wine lover who claims that red wine is perfectly appropriate at any time of year, I’ve been drinking an awful lot of whites and rosés lately. I just noticed that I haven’t reported on a good wine since that excellent Clos la Coutale Cahors Malbec back at the end of March.

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So have I got a tasty red wine to tell you about today? Well, er, no. Watch for something red soon, but right now I’m still enthusiastic about the crisp, summery, yet complex Domaine Labbé Vin de Savoie Abymes that I tasted this week.

As most of you have probably noticed by now, I really enjoy trying wines from relatively little-known regions and those made from comparatively obscure grapes. This wine checks off both of those boxes: It’s made in Savoie, a small, historic region where France meets Switzerland and Northwestern Italy in the Alps. And it’s made with the Jacquère grape, a white variety that as far as I know isn’t made into wine anywhere else on Earth.

Savoie is home to Mont Blanc, France’s tallest mountains. Most of its two-dozen crus – designated wine-growing regions – grow in narrow mountain valleys at relatively high, cool-climate altitudes that foster white grapes.

The towering cliffs of Mont Granier loom behind Labbés Abymes vineyards. Photo from Skurnik Wines.

The towering cliffs of Mont Granier loom behind Labbés Abymes vineyards. Photo from Skurnik Wines.

Savoie’s Abymes vine-growing region lies at the foot of the towering cliffs of Mont Granier in the Massif de la Chartreuse, a rocky landscape that emerged when a nearby hillside collapsed catastrophically in the 13th century. Vineyards occupy its most sunny clay and limestone slopes, with almost every south and eastward slope in vines. The name “Abymes” comes from the French word for the broken stones that still sometimes fall from the mountain during avalanches.

The Jacquere grape yields juicy, acidic fruit that can, and often is, used to make rather, well, boring white wines. Tended with care and vinified with careful attention, though, it can make a delicious and food-friendly white wine that’s rarely expensive but can offer exceptional value.

That’s the case with today’s featured wine, Domaine Labbé Vin de Savoie Abymes. As you’ll read in my tasting report below, it’s bright and fresh, offering complex citric and stone-fruit aromas and flavors with intriguing chalky minerality. I think you’ll enjoy it.


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Today’s Tasting Report

Domaine Labbé 2020 Vin de Savoie Abymes ($14.99)

Labbé Abymes Savoie

Made with 100% indigenous Jacquere grapes sustainably grown on vines more than 35 years old, Domaine Labbé Vin de Savoie Abymes offers a fresh taste of the white wines of Savoie. It shows a distinct greenish brassy color in the glass and offers pleasant, complex aromas of mixed citrus, apples and pears. Bright and fresh on the palate, with just a touch of prickly petillance, its flavors follow the nose, white fruit balanced by fresh acidity with chalky minerality in the background. Relatively light in alcohol at 11%. U.S. importer: Skurnik Wines, NYC. (July 2, 2022)

FOOD MATCH: Wine-Searcher.com suggests pairing it with shellfish, crab and lobster, and that’s good advice: Its crisp, dry minerality should make an excellent match with seafood. It’s good with cheeses, too, and should go well with a charcuterie board. We enjoyed it with an offbeat dish, a meatless version of ganach lupia (Armenian braised green beans) from Serious Eats.

WHEN TO DRINK: I suggest drinking it up within three or four years after the vintage at most, to fully enjoy its bright, fresh flavors.

It’s an excellent buy in the lower to middle teens. Wine-Searcher.com lists a $15 average U.S. retail.

Importer Skurnik Wines offers this short fact sheet on the Labbé Abymes Savoie. For more information about Domaine Labbé, visit this Skurnik page.

Check prices and find vendors for Domaine Labbé Vin de Savoie Abymes on Wine-Searcher.com.

Follow this Wine-Searcher link to reac more about Savoie Abymes and find listings for dozens of other wines of the region.

Interested in the Jacquère grape? This Wine-Searcher link will tell you more, and offers links to a selection of Savoie wines made with the variety.

Wine Focus July 2022: Chenin Blanc and Shiraz

A great French white and an iconic Australian red: Join us this month in Wine Focus as we celebrate Chenin Blanc, the grape of Vouvray and Montlouis, and Shiraz, Australia’s iconic take on Syrah.

Bring your questions and comments and bring your notes on either wine, and join the conversation in Chenin Blanc and Shiraz month, July 2022!


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