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).
Join GL editor and Swiss wine specialist Ellen Wallace for official guided visit and introduction to Swiss wines, limited to 15 persons! In cooperation with Vinea
GENEVA / ZURICH, SWITZERLAND – Vinea, Switzerland’s largest outdoor wine fair, runs on Friday and Saturday this year, 31 August and 1 September. The full programme is now out and here are the highlights, from the organization’s press release:
New this year: the Vinea Swiss wine fair will cover two days, Friday 31 August and Saturday 1 September, from 11:00 to 19:00, in the streets of Sierre, where 150 producers will present their finest wines.
The programme for the 19th wine fair will please the general public, winelovers and professionals. Some 1,200 wines, from numerous grape varieties and a wide range of growing situations, will be available for tasting. In addition to home canton Valais’s producers, five other wine regions from Switzerland are taking part in this open air “wine bar” in the heart of the town of Sierre.
Rioja and Geneva are guests of honour
The language of wine is universal, which is why, every year, Vinea invites a foreign guest of honour. Following Sicily last year, the wine fair in 2012 has invited Rioja wines: the largest appellation d’origine in Spain and the one with the greatest reputation. This region, whose wine grape-growing surface area is four times that of Switzerland, produces exceptional wines that the visitor will be able to discover in the streets of Sierre, as well as during a tasting workshop, a “voyage to the land of 1,000 wines”.
Vins de Genève, representing Switzerland’s third largest wine region, is the Swiss guest of honour: dynamic and innovative wine producers, emblematic grape varieties and a workshop that offers the opportunity to taste 17 versions of its very special blends, l’Esprit de Genève.
Taste Pinots from around the world
Vinea is offering lovers of the beautifully subtle and elegant Pinot wines, in all their forms, a chance to sample the award-winning wines from the Mondial des Pinot, to be announced 31 August. This is a special opportunity, not to be missed, to taste and compare the best Pinots that have been selected among the 1,300 wines from 24 countries taking part in this important international competition.
The issues faced by Swiss wines today
Vinea also intends to serve as a forum for reflection, thus the conference and debate on the theme “Dare to go for Swiss wines”. Several well-known figures and leaders from the world of wine will take part in this discussion about the reasons wines from Switzerland are struggling to hold their own against foreign wines in the now highly competitive market. The programme takes place 31 August at 09:30 at the HES in Sierre. Journalist Isabelle Falconnier from Hebdo magazine will lead the debate. To register, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For every taste
Wine-tasting workshops, free introduction to tasting for young people, a guided visit and introduction to Swiss wines in English, presentation of the famed sweet wines of the Grain Noble ConfidenCiel charter and of the award-winning Lauriers d’Or Terravin wines from canton Vaud, tasting opportunity with the wines from the historical winery Rouvinez Vins: Vinea 2012 has something for every taste and interest on its programme this year.
Visitors to the fair can organize their visit with help from the free iPhone/Android Vinea 2012 application, where they can keep track of their favourite wines.
Newcomers to the world of wine or serious winelovers will both be warmly welcomed at the largest open air wine event devoted to Swiss wines, a fair that is lively, fun and enriching.
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – “Floris” in Anières, canton Geneva, and “Mesa” in Zurich, are the newcomers to Michelin’s list of Swiss two-star restaurants. Floria is headed by Claude Legras and Mesa by Marcus Lindner. They bring the number of eateries with two stars to 18.
Switzerland now has a total of 96 restaurants with stars from the famed French guide, more than any other per person among European countries. The new edition, 520 pages, is on sale in Switzerland, Germany and Austria 17 November, for CHF33. It includes hotels as well as restaurants.
Just two restaurants have three stars: Philippe Rochat and Benoît Violier’s “Hôtel de Ville” in Crissier, canton Vaud, and Andreas Caminada’s “Schauenstein” in Fuerstenau, Graubuenden.
Seventy-six one-star restaurants make up the bulk of the list. Eight restaurants lost their stars for the 2012 Guide which is available Thursday 17 November. Eleven new retaurants joined, with one star.
The other two-star restaurants the Lake Geneva area are:
- “Le Domaine de Châteauvieux“, Philippe Chevrier, Satigny, Geneva
- “Georges Wenger“, Georges Wenger, Noirmont, Jura
- “Le Cerf“, Carlo Crisci, Cossonay, Vaud
- Beau-Rivage Palace, Anne-Sophie Pic, Lausanne, Vaud
- “Le Pont de Brent“, Stéphane Décotterd, Brent/Montreux, Vaud
- “Denis Martin“, Denis Martin, Vevey, Vaud
- “Hotel Terminus“, Didier de Courten, Sierre, Valais.
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
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – I’m just about recovered from the three days of intensive work 19-21 August as a judge at the international wine competition in Sierre, the Mondial du Pinot Noir.
We tasted and noted 1,314 wines from 21 countries around the world; we were 50 judges from 30 countries who worked for three mornings judging about 45 wines each day, during three hours.
One of 12 top world competitions
The competition is organized by the Vinea Association, which either runs or handles the technical side of a number of international competitions, and I can only say the team behind it deserves a big cheer for impeccable organization. This is one of 12 international Vinofed world competitions that have the double patronage of the OIV (international vines and wine organization, based in Paris) and the UIOE, the international oenologists union.
We worked at tables of five, with each of us noting the wines using computers; when the clock time is up the table president announces the average note and if we have very different notes or a wine is close to, but not quite at the score for a medal, we have a brief discussion to try to come to an agreement.
The system works remarkably well, and most of the time the judges’ notes are surprisingly close.
When they are not, the discussions can be lively, are always interesting, and the wine benefits from a closer, second tasting.
All the Pinot family members show up
Most of the wines are Pinot Noirs, but for the past three years the competition has included other Pinots, with Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc: Pinot Noir 65% and a special category “Pinot Noir world champion” 10.5%, still rosé wines 7.8%, Pinot Gris 7.2%, Pinot Blanc 3.8% and under 1% for the categories of sparkling white, sparkling rosé, and sweet/dessert wines.
Update 21:00 SION, SWITZERLAND - It doesn’t get much more perfect for wine-tasting weather, as Switzerland’s largest wine-producing canton opens its winery doors for three days, to present the newly bottled 2010 vintage. It was a very good year, the wines are a delight, the sun is shining and temperatures are expected to be 23-25C for the duration of the Valais Open days.
Here are the basics of how it works, and some suggestions for where to go – my highly personal selection that offers a good mix.
The real specialty of canton Valais is that it offers such a varied collection of wines, many of them found nowhere else in the world: a dozen easily found white grape varieties and almost as many reds, plus some excellent rosés and blends. Valais is increasingly being touted as one of the world’s top producers of late-harvest sweet wines, which age beautifully and are the after-dinner par excellence wine to share with friends.
Start with the cantonal wine web site
The Vins du Valais web site offers a wealth of information in English on the canton’s wines, including a database that you can search by producer, grape type and food/wine pairings. Its pages on the 2011 Open days are not in English, but its search tool for the 2-4 June event is very useful because you can search by location. Everyone who can grows grapes for wine in Valais, mostly on a family-consumption scale, but this still leaves some 600 growers-producers and another 190 cellars that trade wine: too much to experience in one or even three days! Note that most, but not all, wineries are taking part in the three-day event.
Select the area you want to visit: consider public transport
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 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.
Sion and Sierre offer free shuttle buses, for the first time, to groups of wineries. It’s a great way to sample several without worrying about alcohol limits and driving, but also a way to avoid the problem of parking. Several villages have set up their own shuttle buses with drop-offs and pick-ups at a number of participating wineries. Others are organized as tours; some of these charge a fee, worth it in terms of simplifying things.
Bed-and-breakfast and farm stays are a good option in Valais, and the cantonal wine site has an online reservation option for these.
Select the wineries: consider concentrating on Valais specialty wines
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!
To buy or not to buy, and how many wines in a day?
I sample anywhere from three to six wines at a winery, using the bucket provided to spit out. If you don’t do that, you won’t be able to tell one wine from another after the first winery! If your really are there just to visit one or two neighbouring wineries, sit back and drink, santé! Just remember that these are mostly small family wineries, with very few exceptions, and this is the one day of the year when they invest in a major marketing effort: they will welcome you, but do the decent thing and buy at least three bottles to help cover their costs. Glasses will be poured small: you’re there to sample, not consume, remember.
If you’re really exploring and learning about the local wines, no one will expect you to buy, so relax, learn what you can, ask questions and ask for a brochure/order list. You can note on these what you like and what you don’t and decide at the end of the day where you want to spend your money.
My personal list
These are not necessarily where I’ll be visiting this weekend, but I can recommend these villages and these wineries, as a good way to sample a cross-section of the best regional specialties. I’ve put an asterisk* in front of these where I know they speak English.
Fully – closest to Geneva and Lausanne, white and especially bio (organic) and biodynamic wines, is the long string of a village of Fully, with scores of wineries. This is home to Marie-Thérèse Chappaz, arguably one of the country’s best wine producers, albeit a tiny winery; she no longer holds open house days because she can’t keep up with demand. The dramatic mountainside covered in vines lends itself beautifully to fine wines.
Caves Beudon, les vignes dans les ciel, a wonderful source of information about biodynamic growing, a step beyond organic methods, in a magical setting that you can reach only on foot, a steep climb. You can save that for another day, however, as owners Jacques and Marion Granges-Faiss have happily set up a stand and tables at the foot of their mountain home, for three days.
Jacques is a great raconteur and source of information about the geology, flora and fauna of the area. Quality-wise, in the past their wines have been somewhat irregular, so I’m keen to see what the 2010 wines are like. His wines are always interesting and be sure to ask why he created a second, golden Fendant called “Antique”. His best-seller is his very dry Petite Arvine. They also grow apples, pears and more down on the plain.
Benoit Dorsaz, note that despite the road closed signs, you can reach him by car: he makes beautiful wines, possibly because his vineyards are beautifully situated but also lovingly cared for but this grower who is passionate about nature and working hand in hand with it. Whites: his dry (it’s vinified in Valais from very dry to dessert sweet) Petite Arvine is reliably excellent and his Viognier and Petite Arvine sweet wines are lovely. His reds are also recommended.
St-Pierre-de-Clages and Chamoson, central Valais – broad and nearly flat, where the Rhone valley opens out and orchards are plentiful on the left bank, with vineyards covering the right bank. The first village is best known for its summer used-books sale, but it has several excellent wineries. Two are separated, a distinction more apparent to locals than to visitors, by a handful of wineries. Among the good ones here:
Cave du Vidomne, Catherine and Meinrad Gaillard (some English), one of the most startling little wineries in the region, with small volume and extraordinary red wines that are beautifully aged. These are not cheap wines by Swiss standards, but they are hand-crafted and barrel-aged for five years before being released, and the wait and price are worth it. They are generally only open by appointment, since this husband and wife team are almost always out in the vineyards, so this is the rare opportunity to drop in.
*René Favre et Fils, brothers Mike and Jean-Charles offer excellent wines, great knowledge about the region’s wines and vineyards, and Mike in particular, who has held several positions in the world of Valais wines, is a colourful character who enjoys what he does immensely. Some of the family vines are the oldest in Valais, tucked up on the hillside just below the abrupt mountain above the village, and they are treated as great treasures. Their Johannisberg and Humagne blanc are good examples of these wines, and for the sheer pleasure of the names and fun labels, if not the wine (which is good), try the blends: the white Blue Bike and Red Pickup. Blue Bike is full-bodied compared to the varietal (single grape) whites and Red Pickup, with Merlot, Syrah and Diolinoir is hearty and designed to go with a meal.
*Maurice Gay, at the other end of the spectrum size-wise, will leave you wondering where to begin with its huge selection of wines. This is a winery that regularly wins awards and that consistently produces very good quality wines, in a large range. For whites, try the Johannisberg for which this area is famous, dry and crisp, the Heida/Paien, a Valais classic, and the wonderfully perfumed dry Muscat. The latter is a special treat for lovers of dry wines and anyone who wants to better understand how a wine can be both dry and very fruity. But given the large selection here, it’s a great place to just follow your temptations and try a new wine. Hint: The muscat is a great wine with Asian foods that are not too spicey. The winery is out in the vineyards below the town, easy to spot from the autoroute.
Sierre/Salgesch (aka Salquenen) - This is the language divide between French- and German-speaking Valais. A great mix of small and large cellars, includes Provins, the country’s largest and a cooperative winery that sets a great example for others, is open for the weekend on the main street of Sierre, at the entrance to the town, coming from the east side autoroute exit. Three of my favourite Swiss wineries are here:
Maurice Zufferey, discreetly one of the best winemakers around, with an understated elegance to his wines and the man himself: he has served as mentor for more than one good, young Swiss winemaker, and with reason. This is a small winery on the hillside above Sierre, near the easily visible Chateau Mercier, in the suburb/hamlet of Muraz. Start with his Fendant to get a sense of what a good Valais Chasselas is like and how it differs from the more mineral ones from Vaud, but be sure not to miss his Zirouc, if you’re lucky enough to find some left to try! It’s a fine sweet wine, so before you try it, sample his beautiful Pinot Noirs and two Valais specialties, Humagne Rouge and Cornalin. The first is a rustic wine, often saved for the game season, but it goes well with barbecued meats. Cornalin is a difficult grape and difficult wine, and here it is in the hands of a pro. His wife manages the Sierre/Salgesch vine and wine museums, which are well worth a visit.
*Domaine des Muses, Robert Taramarcaz, whose winery is in the industrial estate of Sierre, so he is not surprisingly playing host for the Open days at his other winery “home”, a charming farm at the foot of his vines in nearby Grange (see web page for map), with raclette on offer. The wines themselves are worth the trip, however. This extraordinarily hard-working young producer is a frequent winner of top wine prizes (eight gold medals in 2010) and while he is a specialist in late-harvest sweet wines, his Fendants are superb and his new Merlot is a great surprise: good nose, but smooth and very long in mouth. Be sure to try his “Seduction” line. For details about the wines, visit his web site.
*Rouvinez wines, sits in a spectacular hilltop spot next to a monastery, above the town’s aqua-blue Gironde Lake. You’re in a world-class winery here, in terms of size (they export) as well as quality, and the cellar itself, with its recently renovated area for guests, reflects this. A must-try is my favourite Swiss wine, their almost grapefruity Petite Arvine, Chateau Lichten, and their Marsanne is a lovely white wine that will suit others who are not great fans of dry and acidic wines. Their red blends are particularly worth trying. This is a great place to learn more about what makes Valais wines so special, as the educational part of the display is very good, with explanations about the climate, geography and soils.
Be sure to remember to look up while in Valais: the peaks, the mountains and the skirts that are traces of glaciers all add up to a very special place for making wine, as changeable as the magnificent clouds and light.
I’ll be visiting as many of the wineries as family permits, and taking photos, so expect to see some of the wineries featured here in coming days. This is part of my warm-up to judging at the Grand Prix des Vins Suisse, in which I’ll be taking part again this year, later in June.
Geneva, Switzerland (GenevaLunch) – Filip Opdebeeck was struggling three years ago to convince people that his idea of renting out space to store wine in a former bank vault on the Rue du Rhone in Geneva would work. He was certain the city holds enough people living in apartments without decent wine storage space, who like good wine, want to own bottles and be able to select one for dinner. I wrote an article about him after meeting him at Arvinis, the wine fair in Morges in April 2007, where he was working with Domaine des Muses, one of Switzerland’s top wineries. A lot of potential clients, he told me when I met him, would be people working in the financial industry in Geneva – people who would understand about risk, consumption, and who would enjoy the idea that they were either getting pleasure from drinking their fine wines, or enjoy the investment risk of stocking some that might go up in value.
Your average Geneva wine-lover has nowhere to store fine bottles at home
But he was adament that it was not just a well-heeled group of investment-oriented people or snobs who would buy his idea: he was looking for those who simply love good wine and have nowhere to store it properly, and who want to have access to their wines. I was struck by his arguments, for I spent seven years in apartments in Paris where there was no space and the temperature was always far too warm to keep good wine. I wrote about wine and traveled in France, and to my great frustration buying a bottle that would be good in two or three years was never an option. Buying six was even less of an option!
When I moved to Switzerland I lived in an apartment that came with a cave, or storage room, but the building’s heating pipes ran through it. I mistakenly stored what should have been a beautiful top line 1981 Bordeaux there, which taught me a sad lesson.
The ex-pat who leaves town can’t always take his wine with him
Opdebeeck believed another group in the Geneva area would be interested: expats who have bought fine wines while living in Switzerland, then move away. They store their wines with him, paying a reasonable monthly fee. They can ask him, from abroad, to add to their holdings and ship in small or large quantities, as desired.
Those among the international population who have discovered the beauty of learning about Swiss wines by traveling around the country and bringing back a carton each time, the Geneva storage vault offers a nice option for managing their stock. Opdebeeck knows his fine Swiss wines, as well as world wines.
Opdebeeck called the business, which he opened in 2007, Au Bonheur du Vin.
One part of it is a bourse, where people can buy or sell their wines. Opdebeeck, who is an oenologist and who earlier worked as a rep for some of Switzerland’s best wineries, counsels buyers.
His faith in the business model has paid off, if the New York Times has it right, and in any event the article which has just appeared, featuring his buy-store-have delivered business is bound to be a wonderful bit of publicity for this young (30) entrepreneur. Bravo, Filip!
A blanc de noir from near Sierre in canton Valais is just right, between seasons
It’s too cold out for summer rosés, I’m getting tired of winter reds, and we wanted something besides white last weekend. We opted for a lovely wine, Pradezian, a blanc de noir from Maurice Zufferey in Muraz, above Sierre in canton Valais, to accompany our first barbecue of the season (the chef wore a winter jacket).
This is a still wine; many people know the term “blanc de noir” more in connection with champagnes.
Blanc de noir looks like rosé at first, but it’s really an oeil-de-perdrix, what Americans usually call blush wines. These are often blends in the US. Here it’s a varietal (single grape) wine, with Zufferey looking to bring out the typicity, or typical aromas of the Pinot Noir grape.
The grapes are pressed and then the skins are quickly removed from the juice to prevent the wine from picking up too much colour from the skins. It is vinified like a white wine, not a red.
Taste: fresh fruits, berries and especially the strawberry one finds in Pinot Noirs, with a hint of anise, which makes it interesting. Zufferey suggests offering it as an aperitif wine or with Asian food or grilled meat. We had it with a barbecue, but felt it worked better as an aperitif wine, perfect with warm hors d’oeuvres.
A quiet expert who works closely with nature
I first came across Zufferey when my husband and I celebrated our wedding anniversary at Didier de Courten’s restaurant, at the Hotel Terminus in Sierre, where the wine steward (who is well worth asking for suggestions) strongly recommended a Zufferey sweet wine, Zirouc. It provided a wonderful end to an extravagantly beautiful meal.
Two weeks later I interviewed one of Switzerland’s award-winning young winemakers, Robert Taramarcaz and asked who his mentors are: Maurice Zufferey, he replied promptly, “one of the best winemakers around”.
I visited Maurice Zufferey in the autumn, when the wind was blowing hard and snow seemed just around the corner. His small cozy tasting-room is above the winery in Muraz, a village that stretches the length of Sierre, above it on what feels like a shelf of land.
Zuffery is typical of many of the best of Switzerland’s relatively small winemakers, putting his heart, soul and money into what goes into the bottle, rather than into a flashy public presentation space.
He’s unpretentious, knows his business, loves his wines – and he’ll happily sit down and talk to you about them.
He has some of the best vine parcels around Sierre and he’s well known among winemakers for his meticulous care of his vines, working very much in tune with nature, with the vineyard worked according to integrated production principles. Two-thirds of his 8.5 hectares are reds and he makes beautiful Pinot Noir wines.
Pradezian, blanc de noir from Pinot Noir, CHF14.50
Here are my personal recommendations for places to visit during the Valais wineries Open Days Thursday-Saturday, 13-15 May. This is far from exhaustive, given the 179 wineries participating. And not all wineries are part of this, including some excellent ones, for a variety of reasons. To keep the list reasonable, I’ve had to leave out some I know to be very good, so don’t hesitate to explore on your own.
And don’t be afraid to say you don’t know much, either about wine or about their particular wines: winemakers love nothing better than an invitation to explain what they do – the good ones love their work and want to share that.
My criteria: cellars that are grouped together for easy visits, a mix geographically, my own knowledge of the wineries from visiting them, wineries listed in the Swiss Wine Guide. Note: I oversee the team that provides the English version of this definitive reference work, published every two years.
An exception to the rule that this is free is the Jardin des Vins in Sion, where you pay CHF20 to sample the wines of 13 local producers. It simplifies things and you’ll get your money’s worth, so if you’re in the area, I suggest you stop here. You get your money back if you order 12 wines.
I’ve put an E next to cellars where I know they speak English.
Less than two hours by train from Geneva
And do consider taking the train: Sion is less than two hours from Geneva, to give you an idea.
- Martigny-Combe: Cave Patricia and Gerald Besse
- Fully: Cave de la Tulipe, Cave les Follaterres, Benoit Dorsaz, Philippe et Veronyc Mettaz
- Leytron: Cave Defayes-Crettenand, Cave de l’Etat du Valais
- St Pierre-de-Clage: Didier Joris, Cellier de la Dzaquette, Maurice Gay (E), Cave du Vidomne
- Chamoson: Cave Ardevaz, Cave a Polyte
- Vetroz: Cave la Madeleine, Cave Vetroz
- Granges: Domaine des Muses (E)
- Flanthey: Cave Briguet et fils, Cave Les Romaines, Bagnoud Vins
- Sierre: two large wineries are worth the stop, Espace Provins in the centre and Rouvinez wines on the hillside (shuttle bus)
- Veyras/Miege: Cave du Verseau (E), Cave Caloz, Cave Caprice du Temps (E), La Cave des Champs
- Salgesch (Salquenen in French): Adrian Mathier, Cave du Rhodan
- Varen: Cave du Chevaliers, Bruno Tenud-Tschopp
by Ellen Wallace
My first potato plant has just poked its head above the mound where it grows, and my thoughts immediately turned to that Swiss favourite, roesti.
We grow enough potatoes to last the family from July to late January, and while my preference remains boiled and salted for fresh-out-of-the-ground spuds, roesti is an easy second favourite.
The June wedding season will soon be upon us, and if you’re looking for a particularly Swiss gift, consider these. If your budget is under CHF50 another option is always a lovely padded Swiss potato basket with top to keep them warm.
Two fine kitchen gifts: a roesti hand-crafted dish or a Swiss Diamond breakfast pan
Two kitchen items that make the roesti experience nicer also make excellent wedding gifts, if they are in your budget.
I have a roesti dish from the Heimatwerk shops, of which there are several in Switzerland. They do beautiful hand-crafted ceramics.
The dish is designed so you can cook the potatoes on a griddle, on one side, slip them into the dish, then turn it back over into the pan to cook the other side. We put the pan on top of the dish, as if it were a lid, then in one quick motion reverse it.