The Mémoire des Vins Suisses, which regroups many of Switzerland’s best wine producers, has approved me as a non-producer member, at their recent annual meeting.
It’s an honour, and I’m delighted, because the wineries are widely considered among the best in Switzerland and membership is by invitation only. I appreciate their recognition that serious writing about Swiss wines in English matters, as those of us writing in a non-Swiss language sometimes feel, in this country that exports less than 2% of its wines, that we are working in a language shadow.
The Mémoire was created in 2002, a group of just 21 wine producers from throughout Switzerland who wanted to set up a bank or treasure chest of some of the country’s best wines. The idea was for each to have one wine in the bank, age these, re-taste them annually and explore together how to best work with different grapes to see how best they might age. Switzerland, for a variety of reasons – the cost of land, small wineries’ shortage of storage space, for a start – had never had a large number of wines known for their aging capabilities.
Given Switzerland’s ages-old tendency to give cantonal identity more importance than the foreign notion of “Swissness”, the private organization seemed a bold gesture at the time.
The Mémoire’s role has changed somewhat, although the collection of wines remains central with an accent on the best wines of any one grape variety, and annual tastings of older vintages play a key role. The number of members has grown, albeit slowly, with much debate about keeping the MDVS small and intimate. The annual Trésor du vin suisse tastings are open to the public each March, three vintages of each official MDVS wine. And a more recent event, Mémoire and Friends, now allows the group to invite other very good wineries to join them in presenting wines to the public later in the year.
The face of the Mémoire that is less visible to the public is the educational one, the small club atmosphere among producers that allows them to share problems and successes.
There is a rota of the six official Swiss wine regions; the 2018 annual meeting was held last month in Valais. The group visits some of the host canton’s wineries and related cultural sites; the discussions about how to make the world’s best wines are lively.
My notes from this year’s Valais visits will follow in the next couple of days. Many thanks to my fellow members for their confidence in me; I’m really pleased to join them.