Swiss wine — a well-kept secret
When one attends wine tasting fairs in Switzerland he/she cannot be prepared for the vast array of wine that is available from any one of Switzerland’s wine regions.
Take for example the several Vinea Wine Fairs and wine tastings that were held last week. Vinea is on association active in promoting Swiss wines. In the town of Sierre and also its Chateau Mercier, well crafted and superb wines of the Canton (wine district) of Valais were featured.
Valais is located within the French speaking part of Switzerland as is the Canton of Vaud. The particular 'Sierre fair' featured the wines made throughout Switzerland and included 67 exhibitors.
In addition to the Pinot noir and Chasselas, which make up the brunt of Swiss wine making, there were grapes unique only to Switzerland and in some cases unique only to certain specific vineyards.
Grapes that I had never heard of were available for tasting. For example there was the Humagne rouge, an almost extinct grape that is making tannic but delicious wine and the Humagne blanche (no relation to the rouge) whose wine is full bodied and full flavoured.
I was also introduced to the Petit Arvine, a highly praised, thick berried grape variety Indigenous to Valais and makes fruity, fragrant and delicious white wine.
The Cornalin (a cross between alpine red grapes Petit Rouge and Mayolet) produces a powerful, concentrated, almost purple wine that in my opinion requires time to develop with black cherry, black raspberry and clove in its arsenal. Definitely a food wine with strong meat dishes.
While there were many wine styles and grape varieties new to me, I did find some old standby varieties that were so very well made.
Of course there were the Pinots and Chasselas (also known locally as Fendant) but I was also amazed at the well made Merlots from the Ticino Canton Wine Fair, from the Italian speaking Swiss canton located on the South side of the Alps near the Italian border.
In fact both the Merlot rouge and Merlot blanc (the red grape os vinified as white) were so well made that it was hard to pick one over the other. The surprise of my stay was the almost perfect Viognier, Sauvignon blanc and Pinot gris wine that I tasted from this Canton. One superb Viognier was fermented in amphora style containers.
It is so very sad that these wines are made in such little amounts that most will never make it to our markets but it is still possible to obtain some by contacting the Société des Alcools du Québec (SAQ) at their website: www.saq.com. Just go to its search engine and put in Swiss Wine.
About the author
Chuck Byers is a member of Wine Writers’ Circle of #Canada. He has written three books on Wine/Food and is the producer of several TV series on wine, food and travel. You can contact him via email at [email protected].