A visit to LE NEZ EN L’AIR (4 Route de la Piaz, 74340, Samoens. tel: 04 50 18 60 85)
A summer evening in Samoëns - the perfect time to relax after a day’s walking or cycling by strolling into town before supper to soak up the fairytale atmosphere of this magical village.
A group of us decided to enhance our pre-dinner experience by learning more about the wine of the Haute Savoie region. We headed for a local “caviste”, Le Nez en L’Air, (just along the street from the hardware store and the Aspen Bar), for our pre-booked tasting session, looking forward to trying some delicious local wines and maybe purchasing a bottle or two. It is so easy, even when you are on holiday, to just stick to familiar wines without looking along the shelves for different labels. Samoëns has a selection of stores – gourmet shops, small supermarkets and specialists - where you can purchase good wines, and we wanted to improve our knowledge. The tasting was our opportunity to meet an expert, learn more, and be able to choose local wines with confidence.
First, though, we had to limber up our senses! Le Nez en L’Air’s owner sommelier Martin Girat put us through a series of tests to sharpen our noses – and brains - so that we would be able to appreciate the subtleties of taste and aroma in the various wines we would be sampling. We all fancied ourselves as being pretty good at identifying the essences of the various spices and herbs he presented (especially Sue and Sally who are both keen cooks), but how wrong can you be?
None of us performed brilliantly during this part of the evening – although Sue came out tops – and there was lots of laughter when we failed to spot such familiar culinary ingredients as vanilla and curry leaves!
Le Nez en l’Air stocks wines priced from 5 Euros upwards – a magnum of champagne would obviously cost a lot more – but the cave specialises in medium-priced labels from Savoie, carefully chosen from the vignerons partenaires, the local vineyards, who produce organically grown grapes, and natural wines. Martin explained to us that “Le vin naturel” means that a wine is made by working with nature – from grapes picked by hand, and grown without the use of weedkillers, pesticides, artificial fertilizers or other synthetic products. This method means that the wine grower can keep the living character of the wine, preserving the real quality and taste. If sulphates are used at all, they are kept to a minimum.
Over the last 15 years, the quality of the Savoie wines has improved dramatically, with the diversity of white and red increasing all the time. Now, top French chefs and sommeliers feature them on their lists beside the classic wines of Bordeaux and Bourgogne.
Martin placed bread on the table and explained that we could simply taste each wine, or drink a glass, so long as our palates were ready for the next sample. We, and our palates, were definitely ready! We sipped our way through six delicious wines, enjoying the very special atmosphere of this delightful cave au vins. As we savoured each one, Martin explained its origins in detail: from grape to bottle. We each bought a bottle of our favourite, and enjoyed another tasting session with friends back at the chalet before supper. It was a great way to spend a holiday evening with mates, and highly recommended, in summer and during the ski season.
Favourites from our wine list:
Appellation Ayze domain Belluard, Vin de Savoie. This white wine comes from a vineyard at Ayze, 20 k from Samoens. Very fresh and delicious.
Gringet, cuvee “Les Alpes”, again from the Belluard vineyard. We loved this one – a dry white with a floral bouquet. Excellent.
A Chenin from the vineyard of Xavier Courant, in the commune of Bourgueil. A very well balanced white, which we all enjoyed.
We also tasted a yellow wine from the Jura, Domaine Stephane Tissot – which had sherry and nutty notes! By then, our taste buds were really getting warmed up!
Le Nez en L’Air is open every day except Sunday from June 15th and throughout the summer and ski season from 9.30 -12.30 and 2.30pm to 7.30.pm. A wine tasting session costs 25 Euros per person, and lasts about 2 hours. Great fun, and well worth the price!