GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Tomorrow is the classic roast, gigot d’agneau, for Easter dinner at our house.
I’ve been longing, however, for the Easter meal I had when I lived on the west coast of Ireland, young goat (kid) stewed gently in Guinness, with prunes, onion and garlic. A packet of kid, labelled “1/2 cabri”, nearly leaped off the shelf at me in the Manor in Sierre, so we’re having an Easter Saturday dinner, Irish style.
I love the combination of the sweet and bitter in the Guinness added to the rich fruit and flavourful vegetables and the delicious taste of kid.
For those who are not familiar with it, kid needs to be cooked until very tender. The meat is somewhat like lamb in taste, but less gamey if you have good quality meat.
It can also be roasted (the whole cabri at the store were out of my budget – and we’re having lamb tomorrow, I remind myself), but several countries have traditional recipes for stewed kid, from Dominican Republic creole dishes to southern Italian ragouts.
Back to Ireland, where my County Clare neighbours raised goats for milk, from which they made beautiful cheese.
The little boys, I’m afraid, had to be dispensed with, just as little boy calves in cheese countries give us fine veal meat. Thus the spring kid dinner for Easter.
A bonus: the kitchen smells heavenly while this is cooking!
What we’re drinking with this
I saved a couple bottles of Guinness for those at my table who want to pair like-to-like, but I’m planning to have my stew with an Italian wine, a dry, rich plummy Amarone (“Argento Amarone della Valpolicella”, CHF19.50 at Manor in Sierre) that I think will match the pruneau flavour nicely. I’ll let you know how it goes. The worst thing that happens is that we save the Amarone for tomorrow’s lamb, after carefully resealing it. That’s a great combination.
On the side: we’ll finish with a green salad with oil and Balsamic vinegar, with green olives and crumbled dry goat’s cheese in the salad, maybe dried tomatoes slivered on top if I have them.
1/2 kid (cabri), cut into 4-5 chunks (1.8kg; note: CHF28.50/kg)3 bottles of Guinness stout (Coop and Manor both sell it)2 cups ( homemade chicken broth (carcass stewed for an hour with 1 onion, 2 carrots, 1 celery stalk, salted)1 Manor packet of freshly dried prunes, 250 g3 medium onions5-8 garlic cloves, not too big
6-8 potatoes, firm varieties, partly peeled
1 tsp fleur de sel de Camargue, “nature sauvage” (Manor carries this as well as the regular version)
1 tsp. Pepe Valle Maggia punto verde Bignasco (Ticino black pepper with wine & spirits)
Pre-heat the oven to 170C.
Brown the onion gently over medium heat for 5 minutes in a heavy pan – I use a Le Creuset pan.
Sprinkle the kid lightly with flour, brown, 2 pieces at a time over medium-high heat just until the meat takes on some colour. Add the garlic and reduce heat, brown garlic gently for 1 minute.
Spread the prunes around the meat, avoiding the bottom of the pan so they won’t stick during cooking.
Add the chicken broth: if you’re using broth you’ve had in your refrigerator for a day, turn up the heat high enough to bring the broth to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low.
Pour 2 bottles of the Guinness over the meat and onions. Once it settles and the head on the Guinness dies down, add the potatoes, placing them on stop of the meat so they are not sitting in the Guinness.
If needed, to keep the meat in liquid, add the third bottle of the stout.
Final touch: use a spoon for the salt and pepper, both of which are slightly sticky, then pinch a bit on top of each potato. Place a bunch of parsley, preferably flat leaf, on top, out of the liquid.
Cover and leave in the oven for 4 hours. Check occasionally that the meat is not sticking, and spoon some of the liquid over the top of the meat to keep it very moist.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – A serendipitous combination this: for those who like the idea of taking a hike with one of the St Bernard dogs from the famous Barry Foundation, and who also like vineyards, you can now put the two together.
The Foundation is organizing walks in March and April, Wednesday and Saturday afternoons, with their St Bernards, through the beautiful Fully vineyards in canton Valais, near Martigny.
The walks end at the breeding centre in Martigny, where the dogs spend their winters. Hikers have a good chance of seeing puppies and teenage dogs at the centre, the foundation says.
Groups are limited to 6 to 10 people and the foundation, which regularly holds walks open to the public, recommends early booking to ensure places.
At the Barry Foundation breeding kennels at 14:00, Route des Chantons 52, 1920 Martigny
Fee: CHF45 for adults, child and family discounts offered
A feature on “Switzerland’s surprising wines” that I wrote for France Today magazine has been adapted and is now the second GenevaLunch.com feature on regional travel & wine this week. It includes suggested wineries from the country’s six wine regions.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – I’ve just posted the first of three articles about travel and wine touring in the region as a GenevaLunch feature article; the other two will appear Friday 6 February and Monday February: Swiss wines, followed by the Friendship Triangle on the area where France, Switzerland and Italy come together.
Here’s the first, on over the border French Jura wines and region.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – The 7 Ceps wine competition is an interesting variation on the theme of “best of” that for most competitions means best of a grape variety or a politically defined region. These are wines from a geographically linked area, the vineyards in the greater Mont Blanc region with producers in Italy, France and Switzerland. The borders fall, and relationships among winemakerse are built. The competition, now in its 13th year, also aims to help wineries improve the quality of their products by providing information charts based on the results of the 70 judges’ assessments. All wineries entering the competition receive this, whether or not they have winning wines.
Here is the list of winners, announced 10 November, by category:
GENEVA, NEUCHATEL AND VALAIS
Gold: Domaine de Montmollin, Auvernier, AOC Neuchatel red, Pinot Noir, 2009
Silver: Jean Pierre Dalloz, Le Landeron, AOC Neuchatel red, Pinot Noir, 2011, Oeil de perdrix
Bronze: Cave Colline de Planzettes, Sierre, AOC Valais red, Pinot Noir, 2010
CANTON VAUD WHITE
Gold: Cave Cidis, Morges, AOC La Cote Blanc 2011, cuvée Euphonie
Silver: Uvavins Cave de la Cote, Morges, AOC la Cote Blanc 2011 cuvée Trilogie
Bronze: Artisans Vignerons d’Ollon, AOC Chablais Blanc 2011 cuvée Faveur des Muses
Bronze: Domaine de Marcelin, AOC la Cote Blanc 2010 cuvée Réserve blanche
CANTON VAUD RED
Gold: Domaine de Terre Neuve, Saint Prex, AOC La Cote Rouge 2010 Grand Cru Merlot
Silver: Domaine de Marcelin, Morges, AOC La Cote Rouge 2010 cuvée Esprit carmin
Bronze: Cave Cidis, Morges, AOC La Cote Rouge 2011 cuvée Gamaret Réserve
AOSTA VALLEY WHITE
Gold: Institut Agricole Régional, AostA, Vallée d’Aoste Blanc 2011 cuvée Perce Neige
Silver: Kiuva ScM, Arnad, Vallée d’Aoste Blanc Pinot Gris 2011
AOSTA VALLEY RED
Gold: Rosset Terroir, Aosta, Vallée d’Aoste rouge Doc 2010, Cornalin
Silver: Institut Agricole Régional, Aosta, Vallée d’Aoste rouge Doc, 2011, Pinot Noir
Bronze: Institut Agricole Régional, Aosta, Vallée d’Aoste rouge Doc, 2010, Fumin
Bronze: Coopérative de l’Enfer, Arvier, Vallée d’Aoste rouge, 2011, Enfer d’Arvier
Bronze: Maison Vigneronne Grojean, Quart, Vallée d’Aoste Doc Rouge, 2011, Torette Supérieur
AOC BUGEY CRU WHITE
Gold: Caveau Bugiste, Vongnes, AOC Bugey manicle blanc 2011, cuvée de l’Amandier
Silver: Caveau Bugiste, Vongnes, AOC Bugey manicle blanc 2011, cuvée des Eboulis
AOC BUGEY CRU RED
Gold: Caveau Bugiste, Vongnes, AOC Bugey manicle rouge 2009, cuvée la Truffière
AOC BUGEY RED
Gold: Domaine Monin, Vongnes, AOC Bugey rouge 2010, Cuvée les Falconnières
Silver: GAEC Maison Angelot, Marignieu, AOC Bugey rouge 2011, Cuvée reflet du Terroir
Bronze: Domaine Ducolomb, Lhuis, AOC Bugey rouge 2011
Bronze: Jean Christophe Pellerin, Saint Sorlin en Bugeu, AOC Bugey 2009 Cuvée Chatière
AOC BUGEY WHITE AND ROSE
Gold: Domaine DUCOLOMB, Lhuis, AOC Bugey blanc, Chardonnay, 2011
Silver: Caveau Sylvain Bois, Béon, AOC Bugey blanc, Roussette, 2011, Cuvée Coteau de Chambon
Silver: Terroirs de Chevigneux, Culoz, AOC Bugey Blanc, Chardonnay 2011, Domaine de Bel Air
Bronze: Domaine J Christophe Pellerin, Saint Sorlin en Bugey, AOC blanc, Chardonnay 2011
Bronze: Domaine JC Pellerin, Saint Sorlin en Bugey, AOC blanc, Chardonnay 2009, Cuvée Harmonie
COTEAUX DE l’AIN
Gold: Caveau Bugiste, Vongnes, IGP Coteaux de l’Ain Mondeuse blanche 2011
Silver: Caveau Bugiste, Vongnes, IGP Coteaux de l’Ain Molette 2011
Bronze: Domaine de Mucelle, IGP Coteaux de l’Ain Pinot Noir 2011
VIN DE SAVOIE, RED AND WHITE
Gold: Domaine du Vieux Pressoir, Les Marches, AOC vin de Savoie blanc, Roussette 2011, Cuvée Prestige
Silver: Domaine de Veronnet, Serrières en Chautagne, AOC vin de Savoie blanc, Roussette 2011
Silver: Stéphane Héritier, Clermont, AOC Vin de Savoie Frangy Blanc 2011
Bronze: Philippe Grisard, Cruet, AOC vin de Savoie Blanc, Roussette 2011
Bronze: Fils de René Quenard, Chignin, AOC vin de Savoie Chignin Bergeron Roussanne 2011
Gold: Emilienne Chappuis, Corbonod, AOC Seyssel blanc 2011
VIN DU JURA
Gold: SCV des Domaines Henri Maire, Arbois, AOC Vin Jaune Arbois, 2004
Silver: Domaine Richard, Le Vernois, AOC Vin du Jura blanc Savagnin 2007
Bronze: Domaine Richard, Le Vernois, AOC Vin du Jura blanc Chardonnay 2009
Bronze: SCV des Domaines Henri Maire, Arbois, AOC Arbois Blanc Chardonnay 2011
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Swiss wine fans will have noticed a slowdown in my writing in recent weeks; a broken toe and wrenched knee took their toll on my time, but I’m now back to work. You will find, starting 16 August, a series of short articles that will give you the basics of Swiss wines, in preparation for the big Vinea Swiss wines fair, an outdoor event that is not to be missed if you want to learn about this country’s fine wines. Details on Vinea will be posted here tomorrow.
Meanwhile, I’m excited to be back at work, writing about Swiss wines, starting with winning Geneva wines later this week, and my personal survey of US and other wines available in Hawaii, during my recent trip there (lots to share).
And I’m very pleased to be able to offer you a personal, guided visit to Vinea this year! Bring a friend and get the most out of this year’s fair.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – France’s itinerant wine film and photo festival, Oenovideo, is a hit at this year’s venue, Aigle, in canton Vaud.
I spent Thursday evening at the festival and was enchanted by the “L’Esprit du vin, le réveil des terroirs”, a 1h32 minute film on biodynamic winemakers, mainly in France. I was startled by the length because I didn’t notice the time at all – this is a beautiful film with splendid music, made by Olympe and Yvon Minvielle, two wine producers from the Bordeaux area. It’s a hymn to biodynamic wine, which is slowly but surely joining mainstream winemaking, and I’ve just joined the ranks of converts after watching the movie.
The Saturday selection includes films on wines from Alsace, Vaud and Amigne (Vetroz is holding its annual Amigne grape festival this weekend as well). But there are also showings of fiction and an interview with world-famous wine writer Michel Bettane.
Oenovideo opened Thursday evening 31 May and it features films all weekend, before closing Sunday. Twenty-eight films are finalists out of 114 submitted from 14 countries. Winners will be announced Sunday at noon.
“There seems to be very good interest in the films,” says Stephen Ashton from California’s Wine Country Film Festival, who is attending the Aigle showings for four days. “It’s only 10:00 on a Saturday morning and while it’s not standing room only, the place is nicely filled. There’s a good cross-section of films dealing with vines and wines.” Ashton owns a vineyard in Sonoma and the festival prompted his first trip to Switzerland. “Last night there was one on science and wine, that touched on how soils impact wine, for example. There’s a full range, from the humorous to the scientific. Just right now there was one on the wines of Portugal and how these ancient vineyard places are suffering from being in the EU.”
The festival also features a photo contest: 1,500 images were submitted for 2012, from 10 countries. An exhibit at the castle in Aigle has 100 of the best, enlarged for the display.
Ashton is clearly enchanted by the festival and its location, and he suggests “a pilgrimage to the chateau, an easy walk and the views are beautiful, with vineyards running around it like ribbons.” The chateau houses not only the photo exhibit; it is home to Vaud’s very good wine and vines museum.
He is scouting films for his festival, which runs in September, and he’s seeing some that appeared in California last year. “When you have films from wine areas, it’s magic. Natural products like wine, and culture and art – it’s the perfect marriage.”
Check out the programme in advance on the festival web site.
The films are being shown at the Cinema Cosmpolis in Aigle, next to the train tracks but on the opposite side from the train station. If you arrive by train, take the underpass. If you’re driving, there is a parking lot next to the cinema.
Chateau and Museum: be sure to build in time for a visit.
2011 vintage: warm, deep cherry and plum notes await us after unusual year
LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND – Good news arrived from France Monday, that 2011 wines from the Rhone Valley, after initial tastings, show wonderful promise.
Grapes harvested at optimal ripeness are giving wines marked by fruitiness and warmth, with plum and deep cherry notes, verging on the over-ripe, according to the Inter-Rhône growers association.
The wines stand in strong contrast to the 2010 vintage and recall 2009, a very good year.
It was a year that could have been a disaster, as in Switzerland: “a summery spring, a spring-like summer and a perfect autumn”, the group notes. I’ll wait until winter to taste them, when they are closer to what we’ll find on our tables, but when I recently tasted a series of these wines, including several 2010s, I liked a good number of them.
A long ribbon of vineyards running from south of Lyons to Avignon
Côtes du Rhône, literally the “banks of the Rhone”, is a beautiful wine area, the continuation of a broad ribbon of vineyards that starts in Switzerland’s upper Valais region, threading its way through the length of Valais, Vaud and finally Geneva before reaching France.
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Swiss wines and their great neighbours, the wines of France’s Côtes du Rhône region, have some similarities but the differences underscore the reasons for variety in wines, which in the end is what keeps us all so interested in the stuff.
The Rhone river is the first clue, for even in Switzerland the wines to which it gives birth vary hugely, wines that express their terroir particularly well, from the Petite Arvines and Cornalins of Valais to Vaud’s Chasselas and Geneva’s Gamays.
The start of the Côtes du Rhône wine region is Vienne, just south of Lyons, 180 km from Geneva via the autoroute. It ends far south, in Avignon, near the Mediterranean, running through 171 communes and six administrative departments: Ardèche, Drôme, Gard, Loire, Rhône and Vaucluse.
Weekend wine discovery trips from the Lake Geneva region are easy
It provides some beautiful wines, such as the much-touted Hermitage, Côte-Rôtie and Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines. It is also home to many very good to good wines at moderate prices. They are available in Swiss shops and, for those who long to combine wine-tasting and a weekend jaunt, not too far from home, the Côte du Rhone region is perfect, a short drive to a region where wine tourism is booming. The Vins-Rhone web site is a good starting point; I’ll be doing some touring there in coming weeks and will write more on this aspect of discovering the wines.
Where to begin: the grapes, the geography
Côtes du Rhône wines have suffered somewhat on world markets in recent years by the growth in New World wines. They don’t have the sexiness of Bordeaux wines with exotic prices nor do most have the noble titles of many Burgundies. The size and number of appellations can be daunting and, as elsewhere, the wines range from the mediocre to the great.
Red wines dominate here, 91 percent of the production, but there are some fine whites and roses, not to be overlooked if you’re on a discovery trip.
Getting a handle on these wines isn’t always easy for consumers outside France, but it’s worth the trouble, and the region itself is working hard to make it easier for us, with some success. One statistic that backs up the promising changes seen in the vineyards is that 16 percent of the region’s winemakers are under age 35, a figure well above the national average in France.
Two main varieties, many blends
To start, think of just two main grape varieties, Grenache and Syrah, although a third, Mourvèdre, is also considered a main variety. The region is the cradle of Syrah, which has become known as an international variety, probably the 7th most widely grown grape in the world.
Several other varieties are grown as secondary grapes, mainly to contribute to blends made with these two: 22 varieties officially, but many of them in small quantities. Michel Chapoutier, one of the region’s best-known winemakers, noted for his passion for terroir-strong wines, says “Why just three grapes, when the Swiss have so many? Like a chef, a good oenologist can cook up wonderful blends! Growers here have long planted the grape varieties they know grow best.”
Chapoutier points out that growers learned from the diseases that struck the vineyards in the 18th century and a later over-use of fertilizers. “If we have a good bacteriology of the soil we can have just as much complexity in our wine offerings as with many grape varieties.”
Chapoutier was speaking to a group of sommeliers, wine wholesalers and retailers, and journalists during a day out on Lake Geneva to taste Côtes du Rhône wines (my tasting notes will follow this article).
It was an invitation too good to turn down, since one of the first labels I discovered and explored in France when I moved there from the US several years ago was Côtes du Rhône Villages.
I was ready to move on from dirt-cheap and very strong North African wines proposed by my student friends, the kind that left you with purple lips (blessedly, a short phase in my wine-drinking career).
A French friend suggested that Côtes du Rhône Villages wines, a step up from plain ordinary Côtes du Rhônes, was a good entry into the confusing world of appellations and French wine labels.
Before trying to understand the appellation system, however, take a look at the geography of the Rhone Valley.
In the north, the river is still reeling from its heady rush through the rocky Alps, and granite is a feature of this landscape, very old rock fractured by the Alps, with a soil that holds various minerals. The vines are mainly on the right bank as the river heads south, with the notable exceptions of Hermitage and Croze-Hermitage, where pebbly soil is a feature that adds interest to the granite base.
Further south, the landscape and the soil change significantly. It’s softer here, pebbly soil gives way to sandier soils with loess (windblown sediment) deposited in part by the Mediterranean mistral winds. The mistral, the result of different pressure systems between the north, next to the Alps, and the south, near the sea, can be violent, but growers here appreciate the positive impact it has on their vines.
And in between is a wealth of varied pebbly dry soils that shift as the rivers turns and winds its way south.
From north to south, this is a land of marked seasons: heavy rainfall the gives way to high amounts of sunlight and very warm temperatures.
Appellations, nothing to be afraid of!
The labelling, or appellation system for the region’s wines has three main categories, starting with the top quality regions. Grape yields vary from 46 hectolitres per hectare in the regional appellation to 42 and 42 for Villages and named villages.
- Appellations locales, which covers 18 crus, including the most famous wines of the region
- Côtes du Rhône Villages, wines from 95 communes and within this group 17 have geographic designations that can be mentioned on the label; the region’s web site in English, which offers a handy guide to appellation system, refers to them as “named villages“
- Appellation Regionale Côtes du Rhône, covers wines from 171 communes.
Tasting notes from a series of whites, rosés and reds from the Côtes du Rhône:
Coming next: the reds
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Vinea opens its doors Friday night 2 September, giving the public a great opportunity to sample 1,500 wines from 150 Swiss wine producers as well as those of the guest of honour, Sicily.
This is not only a fun event, with white tents lining the main street of Sierre for the entire weekend, but it’s Switzerland’s largest outdoor wine festival and for a minimal fee you can have a crash course in Swiss wines or limit yourself and sample the new vintages of your favourite producers.
Some 10,000 people attend every year and the atmosphere is friendly but there is, happily, little drunkenness and with events for children and babysitting services, families are part of the crowd.
New plus features this year
- The roadworks in 2010 that forced the fair to have a less than perfect layout are gone and the fair is back to its usual format, easier for visitors
- Friday night is a special session: this is only the second year it has been open to the public, who have a chance to sample the award-winning wines from the big international competition, the Mondial du Pinot Noir, which were announced 1 September (awards are being handed out 2 September to the winning wineries, in Sierre). The focus is on the group of Vinea partners, various specialized quality groups: canton Vaud’s quality label Terravin, Grands Crus du Valais, (Fully, Vétroz, St Léonard and Salgesch/Salquenen), the Grain Noble ConfidenCiel charter, producers from cantons Geneva, Neuchatel and Ticino, the Clos, Domaines et Châteaux Association, and Cervim, the Aosta-based Centre for Research, Environmental Sustainability and Advancement of Mountain Viticulture.
- the number of producers from outside canton Valais continues to grow; until three years ago this was essentially a Valais affair, but the Vinea Association, which manages a number of important international and Swiss wine competitions, is now a Swiss-wide organization
- A special Saturday session at 11:00 with Gianni Giardina from the Sicilian winemakers association takes place at Chateau Mercier, a beautiful spot on the hillside in Sierre, perfect for sampling and learning more about the warm, hearty wines from the south, which are undergoing a renaissance
- Terravin, the canton Vaud quality label group, is holding a Saturday workshop at 15:00; if you want to sample the best of the up and coming as well as older wine producers in Vaud, this is a wonderful way to do it – and there are some beautiful new wines from Vaud (I’ll be writing about them next week)
Details for the Vinea wine fair
Avenue Général Guisan, city centre, Sierre
Friday 2 September, 17:30-20:30, CHF 30.00
Saturday 3 September, 10:00-17:00, CHF40.00
Sunday, 4 September, 10:00-17 :00, CHF40.00
Ticket for 2 days, CHF60.00
CFF train station next to the fair. Parking free at Place Bellevue: well sign-posted
Childcare at the Cour des Miracles is free for children age 3 or over, maximum three hours
Contact for reservations:
Tel.: 027 456 31 44
Fax: 027 456 21 44
BERN, SWITZERLAND – Swiss wines have a boost this week from an airline review, an article in the industry online news site from Australia, eTravel Blackboard, which gives a very upbeat review of Swiss business class travel.
“Not many airlines have a menu with illustrations, but Business Class dining on Swiss flights has always had that extra touch of class. As for food and beverage service, Switzerland’s excellent wines were served in accompaniment of a selection of dishes, vegetarian option included. Swiss wines are not generally exported because production is small and the locals buy up every bottle possible, so it’s a treat to be able to enjoy them when the opportunity arises.”
True, Switzerland has excellent wines, and true, they are not generally exported and production is small, and the locals like to drink Swiss wine, although 62 percent of the wine consumed in Switzerland comes from abroad, according to April 2011 federal statistics.
A key reason why the wines are not exported is that most producers are too small to be well positioned to export. I’ve discussed exports, in the past week, with four producers who do sell abroad, and they are keen to expand. Even with the Swiss franc at its current high, mid- to high-range quality Swiss wines are sold at very competitive prices compared to similar quality products from other European wine-producing countries. Exports account for less than 1 percent of Swiss wine production, but they increased from 18.8 hl to 20.2 hl, from 2009 to 2010, and with larger producers gradually adding smaller vine parcels and increasing capacity, this figure will inch up.
Hl equals hectolitre, a measure used by the international wine industry to measure production, imports and exports. A hectolitre equals 100 litres; a standard bottle of wine is .75 litres.