Seven grand gold medals, with the highest score going to a Chasselas from the Morges area in Vaud, 54 gold medals for a variety of white and red wines from around the country and 111 silver medals: Swiss wine producers deserve a solid round of applause this morning, with the just-announced results of the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles, one of the world’s largest wine competitions.
Top Swiss winners, with grand gold medals:
- Jean-Daniel Coeytaux, Yens, Vaud: Chasselas Grand Cru (you might enjoy this technical sheet from the November 2018 Terravin label Platine d’Or awards)
- Clos de Géronde, Sierre, Valais: Petite Arvine
- Cave Philippe Bovet, Givrins, Vaud: Chenin Blanc
- Artisans Vignerons d’Ollon, Vaud: Blanc Fumé
- Celliers du Chablais, Aigle, Vaud: Pinot Noir barrique
- Domaines Rouvinez, Sierre, Valais: Petite Arvine Grand Cru and Cornalin Grand Cru
A list of all the winning wines from throughout the world is available online, searchable by medal type, country, region and appellation, but please note that Monday morning the web site has been slow, undoubtedly due to the large number of people checking the results.
Familiar names appear among the gold medal winners, with some of my personal favourites: Heida 2017 by Provins with Chandra Kurt and the Titans line made by Luc Senthier for Provins; Cayas 2016, a Syrah from Jean-René Germanier; Merlot Réserve Inspiration 2015 from Cave de la Côte; Polymnie Séduction Or Blanc 2015 (fine blend) from Domaine des Muses in Sierre-Granges; Cave Philippe Bovet’s Chardonnay 2017 and also Brut 2015 from Givrins, Vaud, Sauvignon Gris Biodynamique 2017 from Domaine La Capitaine in Begnins, Vaud and from Yvorne, a fine Chasselas, Clos de L’Abbaye Premier Grand Cru Blanc 2017. And there are more, of course. The producers are a mix of the largest private cellars, cooperatives and small family wineries.
Reds from Switzerland did less well, surprising given the quality of Pinot Noirs from several regions, Cornalin and Syrah among others. It may be because 2017 stocks are very low after a difficult weather vintage, but I don’t feel that Swiss red wines made the impact they should.
Fifth worldwide for medals – remarkable feat
In a series of blind-tastings of 9,200 wines over three days, by 350 judges, where no one knew the country of origin of any of the wines, Switzerland was the fifth most bemedalled country, a remarkable feat. It comes in just after Spain, France, Italy and Portugal – the first three are the world’s largest wine producing nations and even Portugal produces nearly six times as much wine, according to April 2019 figures in State of the Vitiviniculture World Market published by the OIV in Paris.
Yes, Switzerland increased substantially the number of wines it entered in the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles in 2019, as does every country when it hosts this globally key itinerant competition. That’s no guarantee of more medals than usual although logically, the odds increase. In 2018, when the Concours was held in China, Switzerland entered fewer wines (wineries have to consider the cost of shipping samples abroad) but won an honourable 48 medals. This year’s total: 172.
Particularly gratifying for western Switzerland wineries, and especially Vaud, is the high number of points awarded to a Chasselas wine: while canton Vaud has made it a point of marketing pride to insist on these native grapes as the source of elegant, delicate wines they are not always easy for wine judges to appreciate quickly.
Chasselas is noted for its low acidity and relatively low alcohol, and in France and Italy larger, fatter versions of the grape are known as table grapes. Connaisseurs, however – and these includes a following in Japan – love it precisely for the subtlety that allows it to reflect terroir to an extraordinary degree. Chasselas from Féchy is not like one from Yvorne, and both can be beautiful wines. As these fine wines age, once past about age 7, they take on a whole new life. An exciting wine-tasting moment for me was sharing a 1942 Chasselas from Mont-sur-Rolle.
On a more popular level Chasselas is widely consumed in the Lake Geneva region and Valais, where it is called Fendant, as the perfect (easy to digest) aperitif wine and companion to fish and cheese.
The quality of Swiss wines doesn’t surprise anyone who knows them, but small wine producing countries always have trouble making their voices heard. Larger countries have larger producers and regions with more marketing money. They export more and have more international, knowledgeable wine writers covering their wines regularly.
For Switzerland to receive this level of recognition on a world stage will boost confidence among winemakers because it gives consumers another layer of useful information about quality.
It is unlikely to have a great impact on Swiss exports, simply because of the reality of wine production in the country. Switzerland exports a tiny share (1.7-2% only) of what it produces, but it has little to spare: the country supplies just 53% of what it consumed in 2017, according to the latest figures from Swiss Wine Promotion. The Swiss are the world’s fourth largest country in terms of per capita consumption
To understand how such a small country could do so well at a major world wine competition, it’s important to appreciate the landscape of Swiss wine (as described elsewhere on this site):
Today Switzerland is to wine what Scandinavia once was to interior design. It is a showcase for precision, discretion, and a vision that calls for products tied closely to their place of origin. These are clean and contemporary wines; you could almost argue that form follows function, the modernist credo. There is respect for the land and its history, for traditional handling of materials, but here function means understanding what the educated wine palate of a Swiss wine-lover desires.
In the face of larger producers and energy-hog production methods, Swiss wineries have retained older skills while adding new ones. The artisans who produce Swiss wines are working in a laboratory for a better world, sensorially speaking. It has not happened by accident; in short, Swiss wines are, by design, modern and in the best sense crafted. They are made honestly by humans who create them with respect for the people who will drink them, and with quality as their signature.
Wine judges: bashers and king-makers not wanted, 12 May 2019 (what it’s like to be a judge at the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles
Press release in French, CMB, 13 May
Books on Swiss wine in English
- Book review: Wine regions and wines, Switzerland, 12 May 2019 (new official book from Swiss Wine)
- Vineglorious! Switzerland’s Wondrous World of Wine