Weinseller Guide des Vins 2014 by wine writer and consultant Chandra Kurt has been a hugely popular success in German-speaking Switzerland for a number of years, and now she’s brought out a French language version. CHF32, 284 pages. Available from publisher Werd & Weber or from the author.
The book is a review of 575 “bon marché” good value for money wines and it is a useful tool for anyone who buys supermarket wine at least some of the time – most of us.
Filling the gap for supermarket shoppers
Together with Alexandre Truffer’s 2014 Guide des Meilleurs Vins des Supermarchés de Suisse Romande, which was published in September 2013 in French, it closes a gap, offering recommendations for people who shop for wine at larger stores in Switzerland.
Both are good books that you should have if you’re a wine buyer who finds Swiss supermarket shelves daunting.
Truffer’s approach to selecting wines is slightly different and his book includes 50% Swiss wines, while Kurt’s is about 20% Swiss. His wines are available in French-speaking Switzerland. He and fellow wine taster Yves Paquier, who has taught many of us in wine courses offered by Changins near Nyon, do a great job of demystifying their selected wines, and they put an emphasis on good wines, although price-wise the wines cover a good range. CHF19, online from publisher Creaguide or in shops and at wineries.
Kurt’s selection is larger and all of the wines are available at eight supermarkets throughout the country, which means that some excellent wines found from Geneva to Valais aren’t included because most if not all the stores stock their shelves on a regional basis. A couple of years ago I mentioned to a manager for Denner’s that I love one of their Riojas – oh, he said, you must live near Morges, as we don’t sell it anyplace else.
I never buy wine at Aldi and after dipping into the book I’m tempted to take a look.
A number of wine writers, including me, are keen to see consumers meet the people who make the wine. In reality two-thirds of the wine sold in Switzerland is sold in supermarkets, and if helping you discover wineries by starting at the store rather than going to the cellar helps, I’m all for it.
Weinseller: 575 wines from everywhere, for a good price
The wines for Weinseller are selected by the stores themselves, then Kurt tastes and comments on them. If your favourites from the Coop aren’t there, it’s not because she doesn’t like them: Switzerland’s second largest chain store didn’t ask her to rate them.
I asked her at the book’s launch in Geneva in mid-March if she ever adds some wines that the stores haven’t chosen. No, she said, as that would rapidly get too complicated and the nature of the guide would change.
The wines are from around the world, which means the Swiss wines reviewed are limited in number. Manor has eight Swiss reds and Globus five. Manor is one of my favourites stores for buying wine because it has good collections of local Swiss wines at each of its stores. They’re not sold nationwide, so they don’t appear in the book.
The wines are organized by store, which is logical enough if you know you’re going to Aldi, for example, and want to see what it has. If you want to see all the Swiss wines in the book, you have to page through the store sections.
Finding good information, comfort in wine descriptions
Those are really the only drawbacks of the book for me, and they are minor. Some people probably read guides at home, deciding in advance what to buy. Others will shop, come home and see if their wine is in the book. A few perhaps take the book to the store. Whatever works.
The book’s strong point is Kurt’s comments. She’s a very good taster and there’s no snobbery here: the wine’s descriptions are delightfully approachable.
Luins 2010, for example, a Pinot Noir from Domaines Serreaux Dessus, is described as charismatic, a wine that provokes nostalgia, perfect for an evening when you’re leafing through your parents’ photo album of their younger days. It also has all those details we like about price, when to drink it, what to pair it with, how much alcohol it has.