Swiss Wines at home and abroad
The Jancis Robinson website (jancisrobinson.com), one of the leading online publications in the world of wine, has just published its latest tasting article focused exclusively on Switzerland in which Julia Harding MW rated almost 100 Swiss wines. More than 60 of them (largely available in the UK) were shown at the London trade tasting organised in March by Jean-François Genoud and Simon Hardy. The rest were tasted by Julia last summer when she attended the Fête des Vignerons in Vevey and visited some Valais vineyards accompanied by José Vouillamoz.
Julia highlights the overall quality of the wines and the distinctive styles and varieties produced in Switzerland, while duly acknowledging the high production costs and the low level of exports of Swiss wines (which she quantifies in her article).
The individual wine ratings reinforce her favourable assessment as 26 wines are considered 'superior' (17 or 17.5 points) and 47 'distinguished' (16 or 16.5 points), which together represent over three-quarters of the wines she tasted. Nevertheless, Julia recognises the challenge facing Swiss wine exporters: "Congratulations to those Swiss producers who persevere in trying to persuade anyone not living in Switzerland to buy their wines."
It is fair to say that the ratings are not only an outstanding result for Swiss wine producers, but also demonstrate that their wines have a definite role to play in the wine market outside Switzerland. The article finishes with a helpful list of the principal stockists of Swiss producers / wines exported to the UK and the USA.
Introduction by Simon Hardy, DipWSET
About Julia Harding MW
Julia Harding MW is a highly respected and independent British wine critic. After a career in publishing, Julia Harding climbed the mountain, and became a Master of Wine, winning the Robert Mondavi Award for best theory papers and was awarded the Tim Derouet Memorial Prize for excellence in all parts of the exam and dissertation. In 2005 she joined the reputed jancisrobinson.comeditorial team.
2007 Masters of Wine Noval Award for Excellence in Communication
2009 Chairman's Award, Louis Roederer International Wine Writers' Awards
2014 Shortlisted, Louis Roederer International Wine Writers' Awards, Online Communicator
2012 Every major wine book prize for Wine Grapes, co-authored with Jancis Robinson and José Vouillamoz
Marie-Thérèse Chappaz, Coteaux de Plamont Fendant 2018 (Valais) (17.5)
Grown on loess over granite. Demeter-certified. Malo. Unoaked.
Inviting, deep but fresh and spicy pear aroma. Gentle, grainy texture – lees? – and real weight on the palate. There’s the low acidity for the variety but the texture and the pear flavour gives an alternative freshness. Terrific to get this much flavour from Fendant. Very long, too. So much substance and depth. (JH)
12.5% / Drink 2020 – 2025
Marie-Thérèse Chappaz, Grain Arvine de Fully Petite Arvine 2017 (Valais) (17.5)
100% Petite Arvine. Demeter-certified. Clay-limestone over granite. Spontaneous fermentation, one year in older oak.
Ripe, rich and intense aroma of yellow fruits. Rich and textured on the palate, full in the mouth and yet with terrific salty freshness. Rich, creamy texture without being heavy. (JH)
14.5% / Drink 2020 – 2027
Marie-Thérèse Chappaz, Dôle La Liaudisaz 2018 (Valais) (17)
80% Pinot, 20% Gamay (that’s the minimum for Gamay in the regulations for Dôle). Unoaked. Biodynamic.
Light to mid-cherry red. Scented red fruits, almost a touch floral and a hint of spice. Open and fragrant. Creamy and sweet-fruited on the palate, a lovely depth of pure fruit. Juicy, elegant and still generous in fruit. (JH)
13.5% / Drink 2020 – 2028 / £42.50 RRP imported by Alpine Wines
Jean-René Germanier Amigne 2017 Vétroz (Valais) (17)
Aged 8 months in ovoid concrete tanks.
Ripe lemon with a touch of cedar/herbs. Open and intense on the nose. On the palate, deep, smooth and rich. Leesy fullness to the texture and an almost honeyed quality on the finish though there is also a sour note to balance. Complete and long. (JH)
14.1% / Drink 2019 – 2023
Chanton Lafnetscha 1982 (Valais) (17)
Old, rare Swiss variety from the Haut-Valais, a natural cross between Humagne from the Valais in the south and Completer from Graubünden in the south-east. Deep greeny gold. Smoky, toasty and wild on the nose. A hint of kerosene. Lafnetscha apparently means 'don't drink it too quickly'. This is toasty/nutty like bottle-aged Sémillon. Complex, full-flavoured and rich even though Josef-Marie Chanton thinks it is only about 12% alcohol. As it opens up in the glass there are notes of struck match, preserved lemons, toast, pine, grilled nuts, even a touch of smoky bacon. Fascinating wine to enjoy over the course of an evening as it unfurls. (JH)
Drink 1986 – 2020
Histoire d'Enfer, Diolinoir 2016 (Valais) (17)
This is a Robin Noir x Pinot Noir cross. Whole bunch. 12 months in oak, 50% new. 8–10 days’ cold maceration.
Deep crimson. Ripe with dark-red fruits. Peppery, spicy and with air, a touch floral. Very inviting. Chewy, compact and incredibly smooth and polished. Just fresh enough. Deep and long. (JH)
13.7% Drink 2020 – 2025
Dom des Muses Gamay 2018 (Valais) (17)
Lightish cherry red. Pretty sweet-cherry aroma. Lovely fruit purity and still with definite tannic structure so that the overall effect on the palate is more savoury than the vibrant aroma suggested. Firm, dry and smooth on the palate. Really impressive length. (JH)
Drink 2020 – 2024 / £30 RRP
Dom des Muses, Reserve Syrah 2017 (Valais) (17)
From the Coteaux de Sierre. Barrel aged 18 months.
Deep crimson. There’s oak spice but the black fruit is intense enough to shine. Dry and dusty, fine tannins with rock dust on the nose. Dry, dark and fresh. Long, too. Super-fine structure. Meaty on the mid palate (not bretty though), savoury, black olive, classic Syrah with some age. But no rush to drink this. (JH)
13% / Drink 2020 – 2027
Dom des Muses, Polymnie Séduction Or 2016 (Valais) (17)
Marsanne and Pinot Gris. Sweet wine aged in barrique.
Pale gold. Gorgeously seductive ripe apricot and bitter orange aroma. Dried apricots. Viscous, deep, ripe and generously sweet but fresh. And those apricot flavours are reduced down to their limit. Pure apricot. (JH)
14% Drink 2019 – 2029
Luc Massy, Chemin de Fer Dézaley Grand Cru 2018 Dézaley (Vaud) (17.5)
Chemin de Fer is at the bottom of the Dézalay grand cru, right by the railway line. Malo. Finishes ferment in foudre.
There’s a real creamy, leesy richness on the nose, smells deep and inviting if subtle in fruit character. Spicy, sour pear, really sour and salty and surprisingly mouth- watering for the variety. Has great depth and lovely chewy texture. (JH)
13% / Drink 2020 – 2028
Luc Massy, Chemin de Fer Dézaley Grand Cru 2017 Dézaley (Vaud) (17.5)
Chasselas. Vines near the railway. Jean-Daniel Berthet – crowned best vigneron a the Fête des Vignerons 2019 – works with Massy.
Aroma is slightly earthy and leesy. Nicely dusty light citrus, pear. Lovely stony mineral nose. Creamy apples, too. On the palate, firm lees texture, dry, salty and complex without being particularly fruity. The texture gives depth and richness and is just balanced by the acidity, which is always relatively low in Chasselas. Salty aftertaste. Long and deeply textured if soft in acid. Should age really well. Coming back to this after the Fonjallaz 2003 in this small line-up, the acidity is more marked. (JH)
13% / Drink 2019 – 2027
Luc Massy, Clos du Boux Epesses Grand Cru 2018 (Vaud) (17)
Full malo. Eight months in concrete.
This is more in the herbal style on the nose but opens out to grainy pears. Creamy and leesy, you could almost think there was big oak but apparently not. Creamy, deep in texture. Soft acidity but complex in its creaminess and somehow fresh in its slightly sour aftertaste that is more mineral than acid. Very long. (JH)
12.5% / Drink 2020 – 2025
Domaine de la Pierre-Latine, Clos du Crosex Grillé Cuvée des Immortels Aigle Grand Cru 2017 (Vaud) (17)
Spontaneous fermentation, malo, five months in tank and concrete amphora.
Complex, broad cedary nose. Woody rather than oaky. Fat, rich, very soft acidity but rescued from being overweight by a salty-sour note on the finish. I can see this is a complex and distinctive wine but I long for a bit more acidity. There’s certainly depth and complexity and I have to score it well even if it is not my personal taste. Should age well with this much substance. (JH)
12.5% / Drink 2020 – 2027