A Flower Pot in Annecy
Our long stretch of great weather continued into the middle of the week in Annecy, so we took advantage of it by continuing to take long walks into and through the center of town. On Wednesday afternoon we took a bus to the nearby village of Duingt, which is on the east side of Lac Annecy. There’s a magnificent chateau in Duingt that sits on a spit of land which juts out into the lake, and when we took a brief walk up into the hills above the village, we spotted another chateau, which was having its lawn mowed as we walked by (on our boat tour of the lake 2 days later we got good views of both chateaus).
Chateau in the hills above Duingt
On Thursday morning we took a train to Chambery, a city of about 60,000 about an hour from Annecy. Chambery is a rather commercial, bustling city, but the medieval center is charming. We had lunch there at a small restaurant (local specialties, including Diots, a type of sausage) after walking around the center of the city, then went up to the chateau. The chateau dates back to sometime before 1200, but most of it burned down and was rebuilt in the 1800's. At the chateau we visited an exhibition which portrayed the history of the Dukes of Savoie and the chateau. The House of Savoie is one of the oldest dynasties in Europe, tracing its lineage back to the beginning of the 11th century. The Savoie region was a duchy for hundreds of years, being separate from France and more aligned with what later became Italy, and the chateau in Chambery was the seat of the Dukes of Savoie for a good part of that time. The Duchy of Savoie was eventually incorporated into France in 1860, becoming a region of France that now includes the Haute Savoie as well as the Savoie departments.
While on the subject of wine, I should mention a little bit abut the wines of the region. About 80% of the wines of the Savoie region are white wines, and the Jacquere grape is the principal white grape variety; wines from the appellations of Abymes, Apremont, and Chignin are all produced from Jacquere. Fromagerie Pierre Gay stocks several wines from Domaine Blard & Fils, and while we stayed in Annecy we tried their Abymes Vielles Vignes ‘Cuvee Hubert,’ and their Apremont. Both were refreshing, flavorful wines that paired well with lighter foods, and were also great just sipping on the terrace. And the low 11% alcohol level was something rarely seen in wines these days.
One of the top appellations in the Savoie region is Chignin-Bergeron, located south of Annecy near Chambery. Wines that simply have the Chignin appellation are produced from the local Jacquere grape, while those from the Chignin-Bergeron appellation are made from the Bergeron grape, which is also known as Roussanne. Roussanne is an exceptionally flavorful grape variety, and is one of the principal white grapes used in the prestigious appellations of the northern Rhone. We tried several outstanding Chignin-Bergeron wines here, including a 2007 from Andre et Michel Quenard, which we purchased at our favorite cheese shop, and a 2007 from Denis & Didier Berthollier, which won a silver medal at the 2008 Vignerons Independants competition. Unlike many of the wines from the northern Rhone that we tried during the previous week, these wines were unoaked, which allowed the beautiful, floral Roussanne fruit to shine through.
During the first 3 weeks of our trip we had almost no rain (except for a couple of times during the night), and almost uninterrupted sunshine. The first real rainy day was the day we went to Chambery, but even then the rain only lasted for a fraction of the day. Back in Annecy it was cooler than it had been, and mostly cloudy. However, the rain pretty much stopped until sometime during the night, and early Friday morning it was dry, but also mostly cloudy and threatening.
Although it didn’t clear, the rain held off on Friday, so in the afternoon we decided to take the boat tour of the lake that we had been planning all week. While it had been sunny most of the week, it was also generally somewhat hazy, but this afternoon it was clear enough to see the towns around the lake, and also the surrounding mountains. The tour went up one side of the lake and down the other, so we got great views of some of the things we had seen from other vantage points (such as the 2 chateaus in Duingt), and also saw some things that we hadn’t seen before, such as the Abbaye of Talloires and a grand chateau in the hills above the village of Thone. This chateau has been in the same family since the 12th century, and can be visited during the summer. Also on Friday, at lunch before going on the boat tour, we had a bottle of Chatus we had bought earlier in the trip, so once again it was a Chatus and chateau day.
Chateau in Duingt as Seen from the Boat
Chatus on the Terrace with Chateau of Annecy in the Distance