A bottle of each
Jean vullien chardonnay (Organic)
Colterenzio Pinot Bianco Cora (practicing organic)
Jean vuillien chardonnay (Organic)
The eastern French region of the Savoie is one of the most exciting wine regions on the planet, and it's near the top of my must-see places to go once we can get on airplanes and visit other countries again.
Savoie is blessed —a cool mountain climate on a warming planet, and about as idyllic a place to grow and make wine as one could ask for. Known more for skiing and other outdoor pursuits, the Savoie is not so well known as a wine-producing area, though within the area known as the Combe de Savoie, there are a handful of the best producers.
With little-known grape varieties such as Jacquère, Mondeuse, and Altesse nestling alongside Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Gamay, the world of Savoie wines begs to be explored. I was astonished at the quality of Jean Vullien’s wines, especially when compared to most other producers in the area.
How were they producing such high-quality, clean and fresh wines when so many others clearly couldn’t? It transpired that Jean Vullien learned viticulture in his native Bordeaux and his two sons, David and Olivier graduated at the renowned wine college, La Viti in Beaune.
The region’s best comes from a boomerang-shaped string of hillside villages between Grenoble and Albertville (site of the 1992 Winter Olympics) called the Combe de Savoie (Combe is a word of Celtic origin meaning a sharp, deep valley). Jean Vullien and his two sons, David and Olivier, tend 69 acres on the Combe in the villages of Chignin, Montmélian, Arbin, St-Jean de la Porte, and their hometown of Fréterive.
The domain's holdings include all of the region’s indigenous grape varieties, as well as strategically-placed parcels of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The wines range from a crisp, lemon and mineral Jacquère-based white that British wine author Andrew Jefford would categorize as “Muscadet of the Alps” to complex floral and spiced reds made from Mondeuse. In recent years, David and Olivier have also earned a reputation for their excellent Méthode Traditionelle sparkling wines. Though the Vulliens have been making wine for 40 years, the family is perhaps best known as a leader in another segment of the wine industry.
Since 1890, Vullien Pépinière Viticole (vine nursery) has been supplying young vines to growers throughout France. In fact, they were the source for about 25% of the Chardonnay planted in Chablis after the ravages of phylloxera.
Climatically, the Savoie is more challenged than many other wine-producing areas of France, hence the different native grape varieties. Jacquère, which is widely available, drinks like a dry Sauvignon Blanc and is superb with shellfish and seafood. Gamay, which is the principal variety of Beaujolais, is comfortable in this slightly cooler climate too. They are succulent, light and full of fruit with the Gamay Rose airing more on the side of a dry rose. Both work extremely well with Savioe dishes such as raclette, tartiflette, tarte flambee (flammekueche), and cheese fondues.
The prestige bottling is fermented and aged in stainless, and goes through full malo for a rich mouthfeel. A perfect complement for fish and fatty foods, this highly aromatic Chard is perfect with fish and chicken.
Colterenzio Pinot Bianco Cora (practicing organic)
One of the false myths in the wine world is that wines made from cooperatives is insipid, not noteworthy juice, only fit for the bulk wine market. While cooperative wineries in France have, until the last 20 years or so, been responsible for perpetuating this myth, cooperatives in the Alto Adige (or Südtirol in German, the first language of many inhabitants here) have always made wines of great quality, finesse, and terroir.
Perhaps it's because of the contrast between the warm summers and cold winters of vineyards grafted onto the Dolomite foothills. With its generally cool nights even in the height of summer, Alto Adige is able to produce some very focused flavors and a degree of finesse. In the more northern part of the appellation, farms tend to be smaller, and it is often economically unfeasible for small farmers to produce and market wine.
Colterenzio was formed in 1960 when 28 farmers formed a cooperative in order to gain their independence from the wine merchants of the time. These rebels named the newly-founded cooperative after their homeland, the small hamlet of Schreckbichl, (Colterenzio in Italian).
Unlike the French co-ops which by paying by the ton, encouraged farmers to overcrop and bring lower quality fruit to the winery, Colerenzio works with farmers to encourage quality over quantity. Now over 300 farmer families are members of the co-op, located south of Bolzano in the Adige river valley. 12 varieties cultivated. 45% of production is red wine, 55% white wine. 300 days of sunshine a year.
Jancis Robinson: "The two neighboring wine regions of Trentino (the lower, more southerly part of the Adige valley around the town of Trento) and the upper Adige valley produce Italy's most alpine wines in a region dominated by exceptionally competent co-operatives or cantine. Those of Bolzano, Caldaro, Colterenzio, Cortaccia, San Michele Appiano, Terlano and Termeno are notably quality-minded."
Alto Adige wines tend to be brighter, less reliant on oak, focused, and clean, and these value-priced wines from Colterenzio are benchmarks of those descriptors. These are all value-priced wines, that hopefully will find their way regularly into your homes and into your glasses.
While many people associate Pinot Grigio with the Alto Adige, it's Weissburgunder/Pinot Bianco that the natives drink. Look for aromas of white spring flowers, ripe Bartlett pear, and roasted almonds take the lead. The juicy, round palate offers lemon pastry, juicy golden apples, and a nutmeg note alongside fresh acidity. It finishes on a slightly sweet note recalling glazed brown sugar.
The name Cora is a composition of the two Latin words Cornelianum (Cornaiano) and Appianum (Appiano). The female name underlines the elegance of the wine. Excellent Alto Adige fruit, from vineyards at 1475-1800 feet of altitude, particularly distinctive for Pinot Bianco. Soils are gravelly with high calcium carbonate content; cool micro-climate with strong contrasts between day and night time temperatures. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks with the temperature-controlled at approx.65°F, a small part of the must is put in large wooden casks. The new wine subsequently matures for several months on the fine lees.
91 points, Vinous: "The 2019 Pinot Bianco Cora is deliciously ripe and extroverted, leading off with crushed yellow apple and sweet spice, with dusty florals adding grounding depths. It’s soft in texture, contrasted by salty minerals and mouthwatering acidity with notes of young peach and inner florals. This is deceivingly structured, and it shakes off that fruit-forward persona toward the finale. Consider me a fan of this high-energy and truly seductive Pinot Bianco."