November brightened by gold in Lausanne
The gold in question is beautiful Chasselas wines, 16 of them that have been selected over the course of a year by the quality label Terravin‘s industry experts. These are technically the best of canton Vaud’s Chasselas wines, out of 409 wines that had already received the Terravin quality label.
The Terravin awards panel, of which I was a member, then worked from 09:00 until lunchtime 21 November to blind-taste and vote for 8 semi-finalists from these 16, then 4, then 2 until bingo! the one and only best Chasselas of the 2018 vintage emerged: Chablais AOC Villeneuve Grand cru from the Vaud Hospices Cantonaux d’Aigle-Villeneuve. Official title: 2018 Lauriers de Platine blanc Terravin.
There was a buzz in the room this year because 2018 is widely thought to be one of the best years in the past 40: spring was notably warmer than usual and the summer was both warm and dry.
The panel consists of 30 specialists – winemakers, sommeliers, journalists – who know and appreciate fine Chasselas. We simply vote on our favourites in a knockout contest where we’re told to listen to our hearts and not to spend time thinking and analyzing the wines. Some have a nose of white fruits such as pear, or flint, or citrus fruits; they can be just a touch fizzy and some are markedly mineral in mouth.
The result is always fun. Love can take so many forms! Runners-up were:
- Commune de Bourg-en-Lavaux, Cully, Calamin AOC Grand cru
- Blondel Jean-Luc Cully, Pré-Lyre, Lavaux AOC, St Saphorin
- Commune de Bourg-en-Lavaux, Cully, Lavaux AOC, Villette Grand cru
The Vaud experts who selected our initial 16 wines had already held several meetings during the year post-2018 harvest, checking more than 1,000 wines, tasting and noting and double-checking them, finally giving the Terravin gold label to just 6% of Vaud’s total wine production. They gradually whittled down their Chasselas list, noting the visual intensity of the colour, then checking 10 criteria for the wine’s nose and 14 for the mouth. All 16 have already been certified “gold” by Terravin. Here’s the final descriptive sheet for the winner.
“Or Terravin” is a registered trademark that dates back to 1963; it covers all (red and white) Vaud AOC wines and is used to certify Vaud AOC, Grand cru and 1er Grand cru wines that meet the label’s quality profile.
Below, the standings at the end of the first round of voting, all 16 wines
Our hard work over, we were treated to lunch at one of the world’s best restaurants, Hôtel de Ville Crissier, which is one of the sponsors of the Lauriers de Platine Terravin. The several-course meal showcases the wines and pairs them exquisitely with chef Franck Giovannini’s cuisine.
The winner is a hospital wine
I love the European tradition of fine wines born in hospital vineyards. The winning 2018 Chasselas is overseen by the Morges office of the cantonal viticulture department, but the vineyards are at the eastern end of the lake, with 5 hectares of vines in Villeneuve and 3 hectares in Aigle.
These are very old vineyards, dating back to the establishment of a hospital offered to the town of Villeneuve by Aymon de Savoie in June 1232. He provided not just a hospital but good vineyards that would offer a steady income to ensure the hospital’s finances. Some were on land around Villeneuve, others a short distance away in Aigle.
The hospital, true to its times, provided care to the sick and homeless, as well as a roof for traveling pilgrims. Over the centuries, ownership changed hands several times, with the Chanoines from Saint-Maurice holding it for nearly two centuries before invaders from Bern took control of the area in 1536. They retreated 259 years later, giving the hospital to Vaud, which declared its independence in 1794.
The Hospices Cantonaux today includes the CHUV in Lausanne. The first health care law that lay out the official role of the cantonal “hospices” of several institutions dates back to 1810.