Roussette de Savoie is an AOC-level appellation of the Savoie region in far eastern France, specifically for wines made from the Altesse grape variety. Roussette de Savoie is a richer wine than most others made in Savoie, due largely to the qualities of Altesse, which makes more corpulent wines than the ubiquitous Jacquere. The wines have marked floral, honeyed aromas and a certain stonefruit character.
The permitted vineyard land of the appellation covers around 50 communes in the Savoie and Haute-Savoie administrative departments – an area shared by the separate Vin de Savoie appellation that covers a variety of red and white wine styles. The Roussette de Savoie AOC was introduced in 1973, at the same time as the Vin de Savoie appellation.
Four cru names may be appended to the Roussette de Savoie title. They are not necessarily the names of villages, unlike most of the Vin de Savoie crus. Instead, they denote specific vineyards especially well suited to the late-ripening Altesse grapes. These four sites are quite distinct from one another; Frangy in the north is separated from Monterminod in the south by 30 miles (50km), while Marestel and Monthoux fall roughly halfway between, themselves separated by three miles (5km).
The key characteristic of the crus is their steep slopes, which have rapid soil drainage and excellent sunshine exposure – a vital bonus in the cool, alpine climate here. For Marestel and Monthoux, their location between the eastern banks of the upper Rhone river and the Lac du Bourget (France's largest lake) makes for a warmer, more stable mesoclimate. The vines also benefit from the shelter of the Mont de la Charvaz, the ridge which runs along the western edge of the lake, peaking at about 3800ft (1200m) between the two sites.
The Marestel and Monthoux vines' elevated position keeps them out of the reach of low-lying frosts, and their steep southwestern aspect (different from the westerly orientation along the rest of the ridge) means that they receive sunshine much earlier than neighboring vineyards. Similarly, Monterminod is located on the south-facing slopes of one of Savoie's many mountains, overlooking Chambery below.
Frangy is the odd one out of the four, with its limestone-rich clay soils being the winning factor rather than its topography. It shares this feature with Seyssel, six miles (10km) to the southwest. In both cases the terroir is the result of a nearby river; for Seyssel this is the upper Rhone, while for Frangy it is the smaller Usses.
Not all Roussette de Savoie wine comes from these crus; it can originate in any one of the 53 communes across the region. Those Roussette de Savoie wines not from a cru are made under slightly less stringent production conditions, specifically higher maximum yield and lower minimum alcohol.