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
Video: Gilles Desplanches on how to make a mille-feuille
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – 1,222 metres long, 4,207 kilos heavy and, ultimately, more than 30,000 slices: Geneva pastrymaker Gilles Desplanches decided to celebrate its 25th birthday in style by creating the world’s largest mille-feuille. Sunday at Palexpo in Geneva the giant pastry was given the thumbs up by the Guinness Book of Records, which judged it officially the world’s largest, breaking a record set in Belgium in 1992.
The CHF100,000 to be raised from the sale of the slices goes to the breast cancer group Réseau Cancer du Sein/Association Savoir Patient (ASAP).
The recipe: 3.5 hours to whip it up, 25 pastry chefs, uncounted volunteers, 864 litres of cream, 576 litres of milk, 600 kilos of flour, 432 kilos of butter and 360 kilos of fondant.
Orders for slices will be delivered Monday.
Number one wine is from Valais and best organic wine from Geneva
BERN, SWITZERLAND – Head for Valais for the best bottle of wine in the country, a Johannisberg from Chamoson, but go to Ticino if you want to sample the collection from the top winemaker in Switzerland. And Geneva is home to the best in the growing field of Swiss organic wines.
The Swiss national wine awards, the Grand Prix du Vin Suisse 2012, were announced Tuesday evening at a gala event in Bern, organized jointly by the Vinea Association and the wine revue Vinum.
The three special prize winners:
Claudio Tamborini from canton Ticino, in Lamone, was named the Swiss Winemaker of the Year 2012; the prize is given to the producer who obtains the highest overall number of points during the competition. Tamborini was also awarded two other first places prizes, for his Merlot and for wines with residual sugar;
Domaine de Miolan in Choulex, canton Geneva, won the Prix Bio (organic wines) for its Gamaret 2011, awarded the most points among organic wines;
Domaine du Crêtacombe in Chamoson, canton Valais won the Prix Vinissimo for its Johannisberg 2011, matured in amphores; the award goes to the wine that has the highest overall number of points at the Grand Prix du Vin Suisse.
Some 3,000 wines were entered by more than 600 Swiss wine producers and the bottles were judged by 150 professionals in June 2012. In total about 30 percent of the wines wine silver or gold medals, in line with international wine competition standards.
The wines are organized by 12 categories, by grape variety or type of vinification, such as rosé, sweet or sparkling. The top 6 wines in each category are named finalists for the Gala event, but only the top 3 are awarded medals.
Vinum, the European wine revue, is publishing a special report on the winning producers and wines.
New iPhone app, Vinea Swiss Wines, available at midnight: consumers’ guide to best Swiss wines
And in an exciting new development for consumers, winning wines’ producers are listed in the new iPhone application, Vinea Swiss Wines, that goes live in the Apple Store at midnight, as the gala event draws to a close.
Without further ado, here is the complete list of winners of the 12 categories of wine, as well as those nominated as finalists.
Fendant Balavaud Grand Cru 2011 AOC Valais
Jean-René Germanier, 1963 Vétroz
Champ-Noé 2011 Villette Lavaux
Domaine Blondel Jean-Luc Blondel, 1096 Cully
Château de Praz 2011 Vully AOC
Château de Praz SA Marylène and Louis-Charles Bovard-Chervet, 1788 Praz
Champréveyres 2011 Neuchâtel AOC
Caves de la Ville de Neuchâtel, 2000 Neuchâtel
Fendant “Classique” 2010 AOC Valais
Domaine des Muses Robert Taramarcaz, 3960 Sierre
Fendant St-Léonard 2011 AOC Valais
Nouveau St-Clément Christian Lamon et Cie SA, 3978 Flanthey
Langenmooser RxS Spätlese 2010 AOC Zürich
Familie Zahner Weinbau Nicklaus Zahner, 8467 Truttikon
Schlattinger 2011 AOC Thurgau
Schmidweine Thomas Schmid, 8255 Schlattingen
Malanser Riesling-Silvaner 2011 AOC Graubünden
Von Salis AG, 7302 Landquart
Riesling-Sylvaner 2011 AOC Wilchingen
Haumesser Sylvia and Markus Gysel, 8217 Wilchingen
Tschäpperli 2011 AOC Basellandschaft
Tschäpperliweine Dieter Von Blarer, 4147 Aesch
Riesling-Sylvaner 2011 AOC Graubünden
Weingut Davaz Andrea Davaz, 7306 Fläsch
Other white single grape (varietal) wines
Johannisberg, made in amphore, 2011 AOC Valais
Cave du Crêtacombe Fabienne and Michel Constantin-Comby, 1955 Chamoson
Petite Arvine 2011 AOC Valais
Cave le Tambourin Ismaël and Marcel Bonvin, 3960 Sierre
Malanser Chardonnay 2010 AOC Graubünden
Weingut Treib Ueli and Jürg Liesch, 7208 Malans
Petite Arvine “Vieilles Vignes” 2011 AOC Valais
Cave Fernand Cina SA Manfred & Damien Cina, 3970 Salgesch
Traminer 2011 Vully AOC
Domaine Chervet Jean-Daniel Chervet 1788 Praz
Chardonnay 2011 Neuchâtel AOC
Olivier Lavanchy Vins 2000 Neuchâtel
Chevalier Blanc 2010 AOC Valais
Vins des Chevaliers Patrick Z’Brun, 3970 Salgesch
Label Vigne d’Or Varietas 2010 Yvorne Chablais AOC
Artisans Vignerons d’Yvorne, 1853 Yvorne
Cuvée Salomée 2011 AOC Zürichsee
Weinbau Wetli Anne Grethe and Samuel Wetli 8708 Männedorf
Cuvée de l’Arzille 2010 Vully AOC
Domaine Chervet Jean-Daniel Chervet 1788 Praz
Les Innovatifs Blanc 2010 La Côte AOC
Domaine de la Fornelette Charles-Henri and Sébastien Meylan 1172 Bougy-Villars
Défi Blanc les Titans 2011 AOC Valais
Provins Valais 1950 Sion
Rosé and blanc de noir wines
Les Chaumes Oeil-de-Perdrix 2011 La Côte AOC
Cave Cidis SA Thierry Walz, 1131 Tolochenaz
Gamay Martigny Rosé 2011 AOC Valais
Alexis Jacquérioz SA Michael Herminjard, 1920 Martigny
Oeil-de-Perdrix 2011 La Côte AOC
Parfum de Vigne Jean-Jacques Steiner, 1195 Dully
Château d’Auvernier Oeil-de-Perdrix 2011 Neuchâtel AOC
Cave du Château d’Auvernier Thierry Grosjean, 2012 Auvernier
Blanc de Noir 2011 La Côte AOC
Domaine Henri Cruchon Henri and Raoul Cruchon, 1112 Echichens
Réserve du Patron Hallauer Blanc de Noir 2011 Hallau AOC Schaffhausen
Rimuss und Weinkellerei Rahm AG Peter Rahm, 8215 Rahm
Pinot Noir Clos de Balavaud Grand Cru Vétroz 2011 AOC Valais
Les Fils Maye Charles-Albert Fumeaux, 1908 Riddes
Pur Sang 2009 Neuchâtel AOC
Domaine de Chambleau Louis-Philippe Burgat, 2013 Colombier
Pinot Noir Grond 2010 Fläscher AOC
Weingut Davaz Andrea Davaz, 7306 Fläsch
Pinot Noir Barrique 2010 AOC Uetikon
Weingut Erich Meier, 8707 Uetikon Am See
Sélection Barrique Nussbaumen Pinot Noir 2010 AOC Thurgau
Weingut Saxer 7537 Madeleine Saxer, 8537 Nussbaumen
Pinot Noir Kruog Barrique 2010 AOC Fläsch
Weingut Thomas Marugg, 7306 Fläsch
Gamay de Vétroz 2011 AOC Valais
Cave des Deux Rives Claude Fournier et Fils. 1996 Brignon (Nendaz)
Gamay Réserve du Domaine 2011 AOC Genève
Domaine des Molards Michel Desbaillet, 1281 Russin
Gamay Aigle Rouge 2010 Chablais AOC
Les Celliers du Chablais AOC, 1860 Aigle
Gamay 2011 AOC Valais
Cave du Paradou Augusto Magallanes, 1973 Nax
Gamay “Senteur d’Eté” 2011 AOC Valais
Cave la Fournaise Philippe Epiney, 3968 Veyras
Atlantique 2010 Vaud AOC
Cave Philippe Bovet, 1271 Givrins
SanZeno Costamagna 2009 Ticino DOC
Tamborini Carlo Eredi SA, 6814 Lamone
Clos du Châtelard – Apicius 2009 Villeneuve Chablais AOC
Hammel SA, 1180 Rolle
Merlot 2009 AOC Valais
Cave Gilbert Devayes, 1912 Leytron
Rovere 2010 Ticino DOC
Cantina Monti S.a.g.l. ,6936 Cademario
Merlot AOC 1er Cru Coteaux de Peney 2009 AOC Genève
Domaine des Pendus, 1242 Satigny
Domaine de Crochet Merlot 2009 Mont-sur-Rolle la Côte AOC
Caves Hammel SA, Charles Rolaz and Fabio Penta, 1180 Rolle
Other single grape red wines
Syrah Réserve 2010 AOC Valais
Domaine des Muses Robert Taramarcaz, 3960 Sierre
Cornalin 2010 AOC Valais
Kellerei Leukersonne, 3952 Susten
Cornalin Réserve 2009 AOC Valais
Jean-René Germanier, 1963 Vétroz
Syrah de Vétroz 2011 AOC Valais
Cave des Deux Rives, 1963 Vétroz
Syrah fût de chêne 2010 AOC Valais
Cave du Paradou, 1973 Nax
Cornalin Vitis Antiqua 1798 2010 AOC Valais
Kellerei Leukersonne, 3952 Susten
Lettres de Noblesse Malbec/Cabernet 2009 Saint-Saphorin AOC Lavaux
Henri Badoux SA Vins, 1860 Aigle
Grand Rouge Domaine de Châteauneuf 2011 AOC Valais
Etat du Valais – Domaine de Châteauneuf, 1950 Châteauneuf-Sion
Cave des Rossillonnes Dominoir 2010 La Côte AOC
Cave des Rossillonnes Martial Besson, 1184 Vinzel
Vigna d’Antan 2010 Rosso del Ticino DOC
Brivio Vini SA, 6850 Mendrisio
Modus Vivendi Vidomne (barrique) Chamoson 2009 AOC Valais
Cave du Vidomne 1955 St-Pierre-de-Clages
Chevalier Rouge 2009 AOC Valais
Vins des Chevaliers, 3970 Salquenen
Red, white and rose wines with residual sugar of at least 8g/l
La Vita è Bella 2009 Vino bianco dolce da tavola Svizzero
Tamborini Carlo Eredi SA, 6814 Lamone
Saint-Martin 2010 AOC Valais
Domaine du Mont d’Or SA, 1950 Sion
Domaine Tourbillon 2009 AOC Valais
Provins Valais, 1950 Sion
Evoeh ! 2009 AOC Chablais
Domaine du Chêne, 1880 Le Chêne-sur-Bex
Clos de Châteauneuf Barrique Liquoreuse 2010 AOC Valais
Philippe Varone Vins SA, 1950 Sion
Les Grains Nobles 2005 AOC Valais
Rouvinez Vins SA, 3960 Sierre
Bouvier Brut (without vintage) Neuchâtel AOC
Caves Châtenay-Bouvier SA, 2017 Boudry
Cuvée Rogivue Blanc de blancs 2010 St-Saphorin Lavaux AOC
Les Fils Rogivue, 1071 Chexbres
Funambule traditional method sparkling wine brut Martigny AOC Valais
Patricia and Gérald Besse, 1921 Martigny-Combe
Eclypse, without vintage, Lavaux AOC
Domaine d’Aucrêt, 1096 Cully
Etoile de Miolan 2010 AOC Genève
Domaine de Miolan, 1244 Choulex
Val d’Eve – Brut Réserve Blanc de Blancs, without vintage
Hammel SA 1180 Rolle
Part 1 of a 3-part mini-guide for the Vinea wine fair
Reminder: Join me for a one-hour Introduction to Swiss wines and guided visit to Vinea, in cooperation with Vinea! Deadline is Wednesday night 29 August to sign up: details and registration on the GenevaLunch donations page; we will confirm your registration by return e-mail.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Faced with the happy option of sampling 1,500 wines by 150 producers from throughout Switzerland, where do you start? The best place is your brain: make sure you have understand some of the basics first.
The Vinea Swiss wines fair runs Friday 31 August and Saturday 1 September, the biggest outdoor wine event in the country and the best opportunity to really sample Swiss wines.
Here is a quick rundown on Swiss white wines, including some cliché-busters. I will follow this with information about reds, later today, then a post about other Swiss wines and a practical, how-to guide for Vinea, Thursday morning.
A nation of white wines? The cliché
Switzerland produces mainly white wines. Wrong! The famous Chasselas wine, called fendant in canton Valais, is served regularly as an aperitif wine, giving rise to the idea that white wine dominates. Red grapes cover 58 percent of Switzerland’s vineyards.
Switzerland’s place among world wines
The country has a little more than 14,000 hectares of grapes, only 0.2 percent of world production. It has a very good reputation among international wine specialists for its quality, and Swiss wines regularly appear among top winners at world wine competitions such as the Vinalies in Paris. White wines tend to perform particularly well.
How to read a Swiss white wine label
Swiss wines are traditionally mainly varietal, or single grape wines, and the labels often reflect this, with the name of the grape in evidence.
A major exception is Chasselas, so widely grown in its birthplace, canton Vaud, that you often find only the name of the village, the winery and the fantasy name, meaning one the winemaker selected.
The Chasselas from Cave Beetschen in Bursins, for example, shows the name given to the wine by its owners, Tradition, the name of the winery, and the village. The name gives you a clue as to what to expect, in this case a very good, classic style Chasselas from one of the best wine villages in the canton.
The fantasy name is usually given more prominence for blends, which are increasingly appearing in Swiss wineries’ lineups, as the Swiss become more proficient at blending.
The results of this are, for now, uneven. Some are excellent; others don’t quite make the mark.
Wineries are blending, not to get rid of their excess wines (a question I’ve been asked several times), but to offer consumers new wines that meet changing tastes.
New grapes have been introduced in recent years and these are being tested for blending, sometimes with very good success.
A good starting point is the winners of the “white blends” category in the national wine competition, the Grand Prix du Vin Suisse. The 2012 finalists were announced 22 August.
The main Swiss white varieties, partly a matter of region
Switzerland produces 160 grape varieties, an extraordinary number given the size of the national vineyard.
The explanation lies in the geography of the country, which varies hugely, from the open lakeside near Geneva to the remarkably steep banks of Lavaux at the other end of the lake, to the plains around Vully and the Alpine slopes of Valais and Ticino, not to mention the stretches along Lake Zurich and in the foothills of Graubuenden.
The six main grape-growiing regions each have distinctly different micro-climates. Ticino, for example, has areas in the north with some of the country’s heaviest rainfall and further south the vineyards are more like those of neighbouring Italy.
Climate changes are prompting growers to shift to new varieties; Switzerland has a great advantage over France, for example, in that the legislation allows them more flexibility in this area, although this will begin to change in France in 2013. Geneva is one of the regions that has benefited from this and if you’ve heard the old saw that Geneva’s wines are mediocre, ignore it – the canton suffered briefly in the 1970s and 80s, but it is coming back brilliantly, and its newer grape wines can be beautiful.
In order of their importance, by quantity of grapes grown
Chasselas (well over half), Mueller-Thurgau, Sylvaner, Pinot Gris, Petite Arvine, Sauvignon, Pinot Blanc, Savagnin and a number of others.
Chasselas is widely grown because it is an exceptional wine for reflecting its terroir, so don’t expect a floral Geneva Chasselas to smell or taste like a fruity mineral one from Vaud or one called fendant from Sierre, where one of its main roles is to help down a fine raclette cheese! And to put paid to the cliches, the top two Chasselas wines in 2012 are from Neuchatel and nearby Vully, both homes to many wonderful wines.
Prices, what to expect to pay
Another cliché that could usefully die is that Swiss wines are expensive. If you’re looking for a CHF2-5 bottle, true, you’ll have trouble finding it. But there are plenty of wines at CHF7-10 that, compared to wines in neighbouring countries, are very good value for money. I just spent three weeks in the US and compared the price range; Swiss wines are priced on a par, matching quality. Good wines in Switzerland, expect to pay CHF12-25. Very fine wines, CHF28 on up, and they are reliably good.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – The Grand Prix du Vin Suisse, while not a competition that pits one canton against another, serves as a kind of register for how well wines from the six main wine regions fared against those from other parts of the country.
The 2012 distribution of Swiss wine finalists by region and canton
Valais, the largest wine canton – 28
Vaud, second largest – 16
Ticino – 5
Three Lakes region:
Fribourg – 3
Geneva – 3
Graubuenden – 5
Zurich – 4
Schaffhausen – 2
Thurgau – 1
Basel – 1
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 – Swiss cantons are becoming increasingly organized and coordinating their work for the cantonal wineries’ open house days. The same basic tips apply for visiting all of them:
Your starting point should be the GenevaLunch news story on the event (search name of canton + wineries open house). The open houses are designed to make it easier for the public to meet the country’s wines and the people behind them. It’s a great way to learn about Switzerland’s often excellent local wines while seeing some of the world’s most beautiful scenery. I try to make suggestions for types of wineries you might want to visit, from ones with great views to ones with sublime wines.
You’ll get the most out of the visits if a) you spit out the wine after you’ve tasted it, in the small buckets provided for this and b) you ask questions, without worrying that you sound like you know nothing.
How to decide what wineries to visit, how to get there
Select the village(s) you want to visit, based on how you’re planning to get around. The advantage of having a car is that you can buy and pack bottles in the car as you go. The disadvantage is that even if you spit out the wine most of the time, strongly recommended, you have to be careful about the amount you consume: Switzerland’s legal limit is 0.5, the equivalent of one small glass of wine (please note that it was recently incorrectly reported on a radio programme to be 0.8).
Most wineries will ship to you, with next-day service via the post office. This means that if you’re using one of the shuttle options you can carry home that one bottle you think you must have for dinner and leave the rest to show up later in the post. Wineries’ policies vary, but the shipping cost is not high and if you buy more than 6 or 12 the postage is often free or discounted.
Check for CFF Railaway offers . In Vaud, for example: 20 percent off to get there and back, another 20 percent off on the Mobilis regional public transport system and 20 percent off for the CHF15 “passport” glass that gets you in to all the wineries.
The tasting process, from white to red as a general rule
A good general rule is to start with whites and move on to reds. So how do you do this when you’re visiting several wineries? My approach is to select, for example, three wineries whose white wines I particularly want to try, then six whose reds interest me. I allow 30-45 minutes per winery, which gives me a chance to taste the wines, ask other visitors what they like and why, talk to the owners – and relax a bit. This means that I can realistically fit in three in a morning, take time out for lunch and do another three in the afternoon. Or two, lunch and four post-lunch.
Village restaurants are one option for lunch, with several offering special Open days menus, and several of the wineries offer meals. Keep in mind that many of the wineries also offer excellent snacks, so some people simply snack their way through the day!
The fun of these open days lies in exploring and visiting new places, so be adventurous. You won’t always find wines that are magical, but you’ll learn while looking for them and there are enough world-class wines from Switzerland for you to easily find some real treasures.
The winning bid was made via Internet to an unnamed European trade buyer, so it will be hard to wangle an invitation for the day the bottle is opened, assuming it isn’t just stored for another 100-200 years.
Just in case, here’s the per glass price: CHF5,287 for a one decilitre glass, something to keep in mind as the glass is raised.
Make that CHF529 per sip, if you work out 10 small sips to the deci. Here’s what you should get, according to Christie’s: “No label. Registered in the cellar book of Pierre Millet since 1774. Superb lightly ambered colour. Shrunk and fragile cork.” Also see my earlier article on this bottle.
I joined the bidders Tuesday in the lush auction room at Hotel des Bergues, but I didn’t carry a bidding card. There were only about 20 of us, with a bank of staff taking online and telephone bids.
I almost regretted my common sense in not picking up a card, as some of the wines were almost affordable. I briefly toyed with the idea of bidding on 15 lesser bottles of 1988 Bordeaux, with the group to be had for under CHF1,000, a steal compared to the winning bids my auction seat neighbour, an elegant blond gentleman, was paying for his numerous Château Lafite-Rothschilds.
Here’s what I would have bid on, thinking it was maybe in my budget: Château Pavie, vintage 1988 with levels of 8 base of neck and 1 top of shoulder. Château Cos d’Estournel, vintage 1988, three into neck and one base of neck. Château Ducru Beaucaillou, vintage 1988, 2 with levels base of neck.
The lot was estimated at CHF700-900. The level of the bottle matters when you’re calculating the price per sip. The condition of burgundies suffers less than Bordeaux wines from what is known as the change in “ullage”, or the space that isn’t filled (vindange in French) of a bottle over time.
My neighbour had a classier look than the retailers who also bid in Geneva to fill gaps in their store holdings. He was several levels upmarket from my fantasy budget.
A quiet lift of his card and the first Lafite-Rothschild, vintage 1982, went his way. A bit tatty, with a torn label and top-shoulder, but he got a deal: CHF2,400 for the one bottle, when the pre-sale estimate was CHF2,800-3,400. Nice.
Then he went on a roll, first with 12 bottles of Mouton-Rothschild 1988 for CHF3,000, then Lafite-Rothschild 2002, 6 magnums for CHF6,500 and 12 bottles for CHF7,000. Another CHF19,000 on 12bottles and 6 magnums of the 2003. After that I lost track of what he was spending. I decided it was too much for one man’s cellar, so he is probably a buyer who resells to private and corporate customers who feel safe getting big-name wines from him.
The most impressive sale of the day was a lot of 1945 Mouton-Rothschild that went for 2.5 times its estimated value: CHF161,000 rather than the pre-sale starting figure of CHF65,000.
An alternative, if we’re looking for expensive sips, is the 1921 Château Y’quem that went for a mere CHF25,300 for 3 bottles, which makes a sip about half the price of that of the 1774 vin jaune. Two of the bottles were recorked at the chateau in 1989 and the other in 1992.
Here is just part of the description from Michael Broadbent in 2006:
“Very pronounced warm amber; bouquet of soft toasted demarara sugar and coffee; medium-sweet, dry finish. Glorious. Most recently, probably the best-ever.” He then describes its beautiful appearance and returns to the aromas: “Its bouquet both easy and, in truth, difficult to do justice to; the anticipated crème brulé, old apricots, honeyed, whiff of caramel and unplumbable depth medium-sweet, drying out a little after 85 years, gloriously rich, intense and persistent flavour, perfecct sustaining acidity and lingering aftertaste. Sheer perfection.”
I do hope someone opens it and enjoys it soon.
Note: Christie’s in 2010 published an account of a day in the life of Michael Ganne, wine auctioneer, inspecting the wine cellar of a connaisseur in canton Valais, great fun to read.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Thousands of visitors to Geneva’s wineries for the annual open house day today will be welcomed with glasses from a very fine harvest. The 2011 vintage wines were presented officially a week earlier to invited guests of Opage, the cantonal agricultural office. The evening was off to a good start: the event was hosted by the International Museum of the Reformation and its director, Isabelle Graesslé, opened the speeches with a chuckle, saying that she found it quite funny for Calvin to be welcoming Geneva’s wine producers.
She then waxed poetic about how much she has always loved to “se rustiquer” in the springtime, heading out from the city centre “to one of the nearby wine villages for a lovely fresh fish with a cool glass of white wine”.
The wines presented were marked by three features: wineries are presenting a larger number of grape varieties including several rarely seen in Switzerland, many of the wines are exceptionally well-structured because they are not as rich and have better acidity than 2010 wines, and a wonderful crop of young wine producers suddenly appears to be making their mark.
New generation showing off its talent
Geneva’s now long-gone reputation for making uninteresting little wines is in no danger of coming back, with the new generation at the helm. The canton went through a rough patch in the 1970s and 1980s when several growers, who had previously just supplied grapes to wineries, turned to making wine themselves. Some succeeded brilliantly, but others were mediocre and their wines did little for the canton’s name, despite some excellent producers making world-class wines.
The situation is now well under control, with the market pushing out most of those whose wines were, frankly, not very good. The new generation is well-trained, often well-traveled, not afraid to experiment but with the know-how to do so intelligently, and it appears to have set its standards high, judging by the new wines. Women oenologists are now taking the reins from their fathers or are part of a couple producing the wine in at least half of the wineries listed below.
What to expect at the winery open houses
This open house day will show off the 2011 vintage for wines that have not been oaked, with some of them so newly bottled the producers haven’t had time to label them. And 2010 wines that have spent up to a year in wood will be part of the day’s treats.
Notes on the 2011 harvest and vintage: a perfect year, with early flowering, a hot July followed by a hot, dry autumn with harvesting lasting from early September to late October with optimal conditions. Fermentation: good quality, quick. The white wines are particularly notable for their expressive noses, with very good structure supporting the aromas. The reds are notable for the presence of silky tannins.
Tip for exploring the area: if you spot a thick map called “Le Compagnon” 2012 published by terre-avenir.ch, which is part of Opage, grab it! It’s a wonderful map to all the regional products in canton Geneva, but it’s also the most useful map for touring the vineyards. A precious find!
How to visit Geneva’s open winery day, published 2010 but tips are still valid.
Note that several wineries are also open this Sunday 13 May, as a Mother’s Day treat.
Here were my top 10 picks from the official presentation (not ranked), where I concentrated on white wines, and made a small tour of the reds at the end:
- Pinot Blanc Réserve de la Commune de Cologny 2011, Domaine de la Vigne Blanche, Cologny, well structured, rich; father Roger Meylan’s daughter Sarah is putting her stamp on these wines (CHF13)
- Aligoté de Peissy 2010, Les Perrières, Peissy, a great wine for aperitifs, well-balanced good acidity, fine delicate aromas (CHF12)
- Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Domaine des Faunes, Dardagny, typical notes of citrus and grapefruit but less apparent aromas than some of the other Sauvignon Blancs, rich and less acidic than some (a point in its favour): “Sauvignon Blanc is so exuberant you have to keep it in check for good quality” (price N/A)
- Scheureube 2010, SYD/ Stephane Dupraz, Soral, one of the more unusual grape varieties here, from a Riesling and wild grape crossing: very aromatic and nose could be confused with a Muscat at first (think grapes!), wonderful acidity, would be perfect with asparagus and since this is now in season, stock up! (CHF15)
- Kerner de Genève 2010, Domaine Les Abeilles d’Or, Chouilly, another close kin of Riesling, an interesting vertical tasting of 2009, 2010 and 2011: beautiful nose of violets, a wine with great finesse (CHF19.20)
- Le Sybillus 2010, La Printaniere, by vineyard that used to do only single grape (varietal) wines, but as they shrink their yields for quality, they have moved into doing blends, says Frederic Dugerdil, and this is a fine example of the new venture: 70% Sylvaner Riesling, 30% Sauvignon Blanc. (price, N/A)
- Chasselas, Domaine du Molards, Russin (open Sunday 13 May): very aromatic with more minerality than one generally expects from Geneva’s Chasselas wines (Vaud’s are famously mineral and Geneva’s are traditionally richer, more floral): beautiful in mouth. Papa is a grape variety fan and the winery has a small museum and an extraordinary collection of 26 grape varieties for the sheer pleasure of it. (CHF9.00)
- Findling, Les Grisling Blanc, Domaine de Charmes, Satigny: beautiful nose of that aroma I personally always have trouble identifying (I grew up in Iowa where we didn’t have these delicate peaches), pêche de vigne. Elegant wine. (CHF12.50) At this point I moved to the reds and this winery’s Merlot 2010 is a beauty, smooth and silky tannins, a great example of how well Geneva can now grow this grape, giving Ticino a run for its money.
- Gamay 2010, Domaine Dugerdil, Dardagny: fruity nose with typical red fruit notes but enlivened by pepper and spice notes, very straight and clean, an elegant version that is one of Geneva’s best examples of this grape variety, with Sophie Dugerdil’s signature (CHF11.50)
- Gamay, Briva, Domaine Les Hutins, dardagny, fruity nose, another elegant version of this varietal, and great fun to compare it with the previous year’s oaked Gamay, from one of my favourite wineries in the canton. (price N/A)