Fine wine and fondue: ski-season wines


Photograph: Simon Peel

Photograph: Simon Peel

Much of the pleasure of a skiing holiday is found in the all-important pit stops, with essential refuelling (particularly with the scantily clad slopes of the recent season). As a wintry chill runs up the spine of the country, Ben Thomson muses the bottles that best partner a day on the slopes.

One of the joys of skiing is waking early enough to catch one of the first lifts up the mountain, when the slopes have been nicely groomed by the piste-bashers the night before. When you’ve slogged your way up the mountain in a rather large and often cramped room lift, then walked up the metal stairs in your ski boots with skis and poles in hand, and finally reached the moment you slap your skis onto the snow, clip-in and let gravity take control is a truly magical moment. It’s a hard life, I know. For many, one week is all we get each year, so making the most of it is what us Brits do best – no matter what the weather. Of course, apart from all the actual skiing, much joy is found in those all-important pit stops, filled with essential refuelling.

Now onto the first stop, don’t you think? I find a nice hot chocolate, with a cheeky drop of rum to warm the cockles and loosen the body, is ideal – alternatively, a swig of The King’s Ginger is the perfect hipflask-filler, whether on the slopes or a country walk this wonderful ginger concoction is truly warming.

The second highlight of a skiing holiday is finding that special place for lunch, hidden away in the tree line and only accessible from a small, narrow and often steep ski-track: one last test before lunch. I think there are two types of people when it comes to alpine lunching. The first being the “I’m going to have a leafy salad and a small glass of rosé as I want to ski a bit longer this afternoon” sort; and then the brave, perhaps slightly greedy, people that say, “I’m on holiday and I’m having the cheese fondue and a bottle of their Côtes du Rhône – who’s joining me?”, quietly hoping the chair-lift is no more than a few short steps from the restaurant, or that the owner is nice enough to allow you to use his old wooden toboggan to slide down the rest of the way (this has actually happened –you know who you are).

I find a dry Alsace Gewürztraminer or an off-dry Riesling are great ways to off-set the rich creaminess of cheese fondue. I have always been a fan of Rolly-Gassman, particularly his 2012 Riesling de Rorschwihr Cuvée Yves; alternatively, our Own Selection off-dry Riesling at just £10.25 a bottle is a very strong contender.

Having skied all day (don’t tell anyone about the fondue), it’s important to see what the resort has to offer. Your ski boots may ache slightly, but it’s nothing a vin chaud can’t remedy, or – if the sun is still out – even a bottle of rosé shared with friends, I find Daniel Chotard’s Sancerre Rosé is the perfect refreshment to enjoy with a snowy sunset.

Now, if you wouldn’t mind, I need to prepare for a busy day skiing tomorrow, so time to polish off that cheeseboard and head onto that bar down the road for a good old fashioned knees-up.