GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Swissinfo carries a very good article by Michèle Laird about Swiss wine and the hoopla surrounding the recent mention of four wines by a Robert Parker writer. She mentions a number of people involved in the world of Swiss wine, and she points out that women are increasingly playing a role, not least in promoting the quality of Swiss wine.
This writer and this blog, mentioned, will now take a bow, thank you.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – France leaves us with no doubts: they are the world’s Chardonnay masters, based on 872 wines from 42 countries that were judged at Château des Ravatys, the wine estate of the Pasteur Institute at Saint Lager in Burgundy, France this week. The Chardonnay-du-Monde wine competition‘s top 10 wines included 7 from France. Canada had an ice wine among the top 10 and South Africa and the Czech Republic each had a winner.
Switzerland had 17 wines that won medals, three of them gold – and two of those went to the Cave de Genève, whose reputation has been growing. The new awards will help seal its name for fine wine: it won gold for its Genève AOC La Nomade Chardonnay 2011 and a sparkling wine, Baccarat Blanc de Blancs Chardonnay Brut.
Neuchatel producer Thiebaud & Co. won gold for a sparkling wine, Neuchatel AOC Cuvée Prestige Louis Thiébaud Chardonnay Brut.
Five of the Swiss winning wines are oaked and six are sparkling wines. They come from cantons Aargau, Geneva, Neuchatel, Vaud, Valais, and the three lakes region, thus representing all of the six wine-growing regions in the country.
Overall, the competition awarded 58 gold medals and 183 silver.
A new country taking part this year was Burma/Myanmar.
And a new “tool” has left me intrigued and a little baffled:
“The use of a new Professional Tasting Instrument resulting from applied research. In addition to organising a flawless competition is the desire to improving the reliability of measuring instruments. This resulted in the adoption of a professional wine-tasting glass for the tasting of sparkling Chardonnay wines. This new tool tested by judges of Effervescents du Monde (www.effervescents-du-monde.com) is an INAO-type tasting glass that contains a precise number of nucleation sites. The objective of this new wine-tasting glass “Fleur d’Effervescence“ is to optimize the tasting of sparkling wines, to calibrate their degree of effervescence, to control the formation of bubbles and to enable ideal expression of the foam…
Saving money is creating another problem, research shows
BERN, SWITZERLAND – Young people in Switzerland are doubling their alcohol input by “predrinking” at home before going out, shows new research by Swiss Addition, funded by the National Science Institute.
A study of 1,441 people between 20 and 26, designed to draw a clearer picture of young people’s drinking habits, looked at what they are drinking, when and where, and in what quantities. Concerned about the price of drinks, young people are increasingly drinking at home before going out for the evening. The result is not, as is commonly believed, that they drink less while out for the evening, but that they nearly double their consumption. The amount of alcohol consumed during an evening that is limited to drinking in bars and clubs is 4.1 glasses per evening, while an evening that starts with drinking at home ends with 7.2 glasses consumed.
Addiction Swiss is calling for preventive measures that more precisely target the trend, especially in creating greater awareness of the implications of pre-drinking.
European Parliament votes against keeping the absinthe in absinthe
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – The European Commission wants clarity: the list of ingredients in the famous old Swiss drink, absinthe, must contain certain basic ingredients, its argues, and one of these is thujone, found in several plants, including Artemisia absinthium, also known as Great Wormwood.
It’s also found in sage.
The European Parliament said Thursday that it disagrees, voting 409 to 247 for the status quo, which sets a maximum amount of 35 milligrams per kilogram of absinthe – but which sets no minimum. The Commission’s goal is to standardize the drink by ensuring the same basic ingredients are used.
The vote was backed by members of parliament voicing health concerns, who said there is no need to guarantee that the “toxin” thujone is part of the drink. Absinthe was banned for most of a century in a number of countries because of fears that it poisoned drinkers; it was famous in the arts world for its hallucinogenic effects.
The drink was banned in Switzerland in 1908 but authorized again in 2005. It was given protected IGP status in August 2012, so that at least in Switzerland, makers of the “green fairy” drink must meet a set of standards.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – If you’re near Bellinzona Thursday 14 March, this is a not-to-be-missed opportunity: the Mémoire des Vins Suisses annual tasting session open to the public, where you can taste vintages from the past 10 years of some of Switzerland’s finest wines.
The wines are from the Trésors des Vins Suisses collection, or wine bank, of the group of 50 wineries that are members of the MDVS, the country’s elite club of wine producers.
Each producer adds 60 bottles of each vintage for a wine that is selected when the winery becomes a member, and at an annual meeting the group holds its own tasting session to comment on and discuss the wines, as well as inviting the public to do the same at an open session.
- Date: Thursday 14 March
- Place: Castelgrande, 6500 Bellinzona
- Time: 14:00-18:00
- Tickets: entry is free if you register online in advance, or CHF20 at the door
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – The Memoire des Vins Suisses (MDVS) group of elite wine producers has just added 10 new members, a significant change, with nine of them not producers, but individuals who actively promote Swiss wines through their work.
The Jean René Germanier winery in Vétroz, which left the group in 2008, has returned, bringing with it Amigne Balavaud Grand Cru as its contribution to the MDVS wine bank.
The group was created in 2002, with just a handful of top Swiss wineries, and it initially focused on creating a bank of wines that they believed would age well. Each winery contributes 60 bottles a year to the “Trésor des vins suisses” bank, to test which grape varieties and methods offer Swiss producers the most promising options for developing older vintage wines.
The newly added Amigne from Vétroz is the only wine of this grape variety, widely viewed as one of Switzerland’s finest native grapes, with excellent aging potential.
The new members bring the group to 64, of which 50 are wineries – after adding cellars each year from Switzerland’s six wine regions, the group opted in 2012 to limit iindefinitely the number of wineries to 50. This year the group’s newcomers are individuals who have added to the renown of Swiss wines: Jérome Aké Béda, sommelier; Hans Bättig agricultural engineer at Zurich’s ETH federal polytechnic; Pierre Emmanuel Buss, journalist for Le Temps; France Massy, journalist for Le Nouvelliest in Sion; Mark Segmüller, sommelier and restaurant owner; Pierre Thomas, journalist; Rudolf Trefzer, food and wine writer; José Vouillamoz, grape variety researcher, geneticist and author; Eva Zwahlen, wine writer in German.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – In a rare move, a medical study of a Mediterranean diet’s impact on cardiovascular problems proved so conclusive the study was abandoned early, after nearly five years. The study, published 25 February in the New England Journal of Medicine, included 7,447 persons considered at risk, and it put them on three diets.
A Mediterrean diet’s “salient components … reportedly associated with better survival include moderate consumption of ethanol (mostly from wine), low consumption of meat and meat products, and high consumption of vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, fish, and olive oil”, the authors write.
The study provides the strongest support yet from researchers on the potential for the diet from the region to help prevent heart attacks and strokes. Wine producers, who have long argued that small quantities of wine can be beneficial, will be pleased to see support for their arguments, an antidote to growing pressure in some countries to limit advertising because of alcohol abuse.
The authors conclude that “In this trial, an energy-unrestricted Mediterranean diet supplemented with either extra-virgin olive oil or nuts resulted in an absolute risk reduction of approximately 3 major cardiovascular events per 1000 person-years, for a relative risk reduction of approximately 30%, among high-risk persons who were initially free of cardiovascular disease. These results support the benefits of the Mediterranean diet for cardiovascular risk reduction. They are particularly relevant given the challenges of achieving and maintaining weight loss.”
The work was carried out at several research centres in Spain and has a long list of authors.
Figure well below that for UK, France
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – The Swiss continue to hold a steady line on their consumption of spirits, at about 1.6 litres per person a year for the past 10 years. Consumption has risen slightly, new figures from the Federal Bureau for Alcohol show, but in line with the rising population.
The Swiss consumed on average 8.6 litres of pure alcohol, all categories combined, in 2011, well down from the 17 litres per person back in 1900.
For the past three years overall consumption has remained steady, with a slight dip in wine drinking made up for by a slight increase in beer.
British drinkers, by comparison, consume slightly more alcohol per person in total, measured as pure alcohol.
The UK’s annual consumption per person in product terms (not pure alcohol) was 27.9 litres for wine, 2.2 litres for spirits (@100% alcohol) and 106.4 litres for beer, according to the British Wine and Spirit Trade Association, in 2011.
The French drink somewhat more spirits, about 2.5 litres. Spirits account for 20 percent of alcoholic beverages drunk in France with wine 60 percent, compared to spirits accounting for 21 percent in the UK and wine 30 percent.
In Switzerland, spirits account for 18 percent of alcohol consumption and wine 50 percent. Beer makes up the bulk of the difference in all three countries (figures are from the WHO and date back to 2005, with only Britain showing a significant change, with less beer and more wine in recent years.
Swiss spirits account for only 18 percent of the market, with 82 percent imported. Whisky remains the most popular import, accounting for 21 percent of the market, followed by vodka, with 18 percent.
The Swiss indigenous production, from a variety of fruits, is highly dependent on fruit yields, with harvests tending to alternate good and bad years. A happy note for the industry is an 11 percent increase in exports in 2012, due almost entirely to the 104 percent increase in sales abroad of Swiss absinthe, which received protection from the European Union in August 2012. The quantity nevertheless remains very small compared to imported spirits.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – The 2012 wine harvest in Switzerland was the subject of an odd mix of projections during the year, ranging from terrible to very good.
The explanation is simple: a year of weather extremes touched different regions in different ways and, as the year progressed, the positive or negative outlook often turned around.
The net result, figures released last week by Bern show, was a 2012 harvest “of good quality” but due to variable meteorological conditions, of lower quantity. The wine grape harvest was 1.004 million hectolitres (1,000 litres = 1 hectolitre), down 7 percent from the average for the past five years and 10 percent less than the 2011 record harvest.
Wines are now in the cellars, maturing and being sampled as they develop, and the reports coming in, says Bern, are positive.
That’s mixed news for many Swiss wine producers, who have been worried about growing stocks, as good years coupled with slipping consumption throughout Europe, including Switzerland. These may now start to move, but the price of producing the 2012 wines could well be higher for many producers.
Capricious year obliged growers to pick only top quality grapes
Then again, the start of the summer was particularly hot and dry in some places – and autumn brought a number of very heavy sudden rainfalls just around harvest time, which raises the risk of rot on the vines.
The result was that many growers had to manually sort their grapes to get rid of any infected grapes, a costly and time-consuming process. “Thanks to this laborious work, high quality grapes were used to make wine, to such an extent that consumers won’t be deceived by [2012's] good wines.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Those of us who know Swiss wines knew the day would come when the Robert Parkers of the world would discover Helvetia’s rich and varied collection of wines; that day has arrived.
Swiss wine researcher and author José Vouillamoz in 2011 invited David Schildknecht, a member of Parker’s wine reviewing team and for years a regular contributor to Parker’s Wine Advocate, to visit a public tasting session in Zurich, Memoire & Friends, organized by the Memoire des Vins Suisses wines, some of the country’s best. The two also did a tour of a limited number of wineries in Vaud and Valais three months later.
Vouillamoz is co-author of the November 2012 tome, Wine Grapes, with Jancis Robinson and Julia Harding, the most complete work ever published on wine grape varieties, widely touted as a must-have reference book.
Schildknecht has just included four Swiss winemakers in his personal Best of 2012 collection, a very subjective selection of his favourite winemakers among the hundreds he visits in a year. Anyone who is familiar with the wines of canton Vaud’s Pierre-Luc Leyvraz in St Saphorin, Blaise Duboux, also in Lavaux, Robert Taramarcaz at Domaine des Muses in Sierre, canton Valais and the Cantina Kopp von der Crone Visini, south of Lugano in Ticino, will be very pleased to see them included, for this is a marketing boost that small winemakers can usually only dream of.
Those who were not included may be miffed, and several Swiss articles about Schildknecht’s visit, at the time, added to the polemic about how such a powerhouse as the Parker organization can step into a small wine region and make a tiny sampling, then walk off and talk about “Swiss wines”.
For those of us who are not in the thick of Swiss wine politics, the wineries chosen are not what matters here: Swiss wine is less than 2 percent of the world’s production and few wines are exported, for several reasons, so despite often excellent quality on a world scale, they have trouble getting noticed. Parker’s team has just put Swiss wines on its map, and all good winemakers here will benefit, not just the three selected by Schildknecht.
For me, Schildknecht’s selection is a flag-waver for winelovers which simply suggests that if you can turn up three terrific wineries during two short visits, you should explore further because Swiss wines offer a wonderful world of amazing wine discoveries. If you’re lucky enough to live in Switzerland, like me, take advantage of this!
Chasselas-lovers in particular (count me in) will feel vindicated by his words on this so-Swiss grape, born on the shores of Lake Geneva:
“Whatever you call it, a once-prevalent Northern European cépage gets a bad rap for being better-known as a table grape (or, in Alsace, as an agent of German viticultural imperialism). But put the right genetic variants (of which there are many) in the right soil as well as the right hands andChasselas – a.k.a. Gutedel; a.ka. Fendant – can render among the most distinctively and irresistibly delicious whites on earth.
“Where they’re famous for Chasselas – the only place – is in Switzerland’s Vaud, whose steep, towering terraces along the North Shore of Lake Geneva can in the best instances yield whites of distinguished subtlety. They are low-acid – usually undergo “malo” – yet leave you groping for mineral descriptors that do them justice, as well as for another glassful of something so instantly refreshing.”
Note: An article I wrote on Swiss wines is scheduled to be the cover story for the February 2013 issue of France Today magazine, any last-minute problems aside (goes to the printer this week).