Chautagne is a cru of the Vin de Savoie appellation that covers the countryside south of Lake Geneva in eastern France. The cru, reserved for both red and white wines, is named for the village of Serrieres-en-Chautagne, 25 miles (40km) south-west of Geneva. Deeply-colored peppery red wines made principally from the Gamay and Mondeuse grape varieties is the particular specialty of Chautagne.
As in much of Savoie, the landscape surrounding Serrieres-en-Chautagne is made up of narrow valleys and steep mountain sides, the result of extensive ancient glaciations. To qualify as a Chautagne wine, the grapes must be grown either in the commune itself, or in the neighboring communes of Motz, Ruffieux and Chindrieux. Motz and Ruffieux lie to the north and south of Chautagne respectively, while Chindrieux is located a little further to the south, at the northern end of the long, thin Lac du Bourget – France's deepest, largest lake. The separate Savoie Jongieux cru is just a short distance to the south, on the other side of the Lac du Bourget, and Seyssel, Savoie's only single-village appellation, is just to the north.
Most of the vineyards that are responsible for the Chautagne wines sit on the side of the Haut Foug mountains on steep, west-facing sites that benefit from good sunlight exposure. The continental climate here is tempered by the presence of the lake to the south, the thermal effects of which keep the vineyards cooler in summer and warmer in winter. This effect is exacerbated by the high limestone cliffs which surround the valley, storing warmth and thus aiding the ripening process. In fact, the vineyards of Chautagne are among the first to be harvested in Savoie, usually in early September.
The extensive glaciations that formed the Lac du Bourget are also responsible for the molasse soils: a kind of limestone scree that covers the lower slopes of the mountains. These soils are excellent for viticulture as they have good drainage and help to counter the effects of relatively high levels of rainfall in the region, drawing water away from the roots of the plant. This serves to limit vigor and yields, leading to the production of concentrated, high-quality grapes.
Savoie Chautagne is one of the few Vin de Savoie crus that allows the production of both red and white wines. The reds are principally made from Mondeuse, Gamay and Pinot Noir, but may also contain up to 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc or the rare Persan – a variety unique to Savoie. The white wines must be predominantly made of Jacquere, but may have a small amount of Chardonnay, Aligote or a handful of other local varieties blended in. These white wines are generally light and dry in style.