Remember when we were watering the vines?
Oh, for those warm, dry days of summer, early August, now that the first snow is falling in the Swiss Alps! I’ve been reviewing my notes for wines I enjoyed at two August events, to share some of my favourites with you.
The August wine-tastings were part of larger events. The first of August I was a guest at the Cyclosportive des Vins du Valais event. I took part in 2018, but I didn’t have time to train this year, so I cheered people who are more fit. This popular cycling day attracts more than 1,200 people for six timed courses (65km, 87km, 103km and 120km, with a climb of 2,560 m in altitude) plus two gentler non-timed 40km touring rides, 300 m of climb.
We the fans, family and friends of cyclists rode in oldtimer buses through Valais vineyards to Saillon, one of the refuelling stops. We paused in the village centre where Saillon wineries welcomed us and we waited for the riders, to cheer them on, before we drove up a steep path to the Cave Corbassière guérite, or vineyard hut. Here we, too, refuelled, with Valais dried meats, cheeses, breads and jams, and another sampling of local wines.
Some of the wines I enjoyed and recommend:
- Petite Arvine 2017 Cave Corbassière. A nose remarkable for its purity, mouth with a fine tension, surprisingly powerful and, I learned later, the wine won a gold medal at the Grand Prix des Vins Suisse. CHF17
- Divona 2018 Cave Marc-André Rossier. One of the new disease resistant varieties, this no-treatments white is a charmer. CHF15
- Durize 2014 Clos de Landzelène (note the 2016 is available) Cave P-A Crettenand, a red. A must-try wine for fans of rare wines, as there is very little of this made anywhere, just over half a hectare grown in the world and it’s all around Fully-Saillon. A shame! Rustic, nose of plums, cherries and liquorice, a surprisingly smooth mouth – a wine with character and great with cold meats. I want to try it, as they suggest, with a game terrine. It’s kin to Cornalin and Val d’Aosta (Italy) Petit Rouget. One reason for its lack of popularity is that it ripens late, risky for growers and too often in the past it was harvested not quite ripe. CHF21
Top wine picks – Mémoire’s summer tasting session
A week later I went to the Fête des Vignerons, as a writer/journalist member of the Mémoire des Vins Suisses group. Before the colourful evening show in Vevey, which I was seeing for the second time (noticeably better), we tasted new wines from the cellars of Mémoire wineries, a group that includes most of Switzerland’s top wine producers, as well as wines from the creative Arte Vitis group of producers in canton Vaud. I concentrated on Vaud wines.
It was my first visit to the Maison Buttin-de-Loës in Grandvaux, once owned by Bernese overlords, and restored as a vineyard mansion in 1917 by owners whose name it still bears. Lavaux’s Unesco World Heritage site offices are here and banquets and conferences regularly take place in this elegant 16th century village house with spectacular views over Lake Geneva and the French Alps. I sat on a wall for several minutes to absorb nature’s grandeur, Lavaux style. Reminder to self: take more day-long hikes around this area.
Whites from the Mémoire des Vins Suisses
- Chasselas: Hammel Clos de la George, Chablaid, 2018. Still a bit closed after just one month in bottles, hint of fleur-de-vignes in the nose, really gorgeous mouth and very very long for a Chasselas. Would like to try it with asparagus. CHF20.50 for the 2017, now available.
- Chasselas: Cruchon Mont de Vaux, biodynamic, unfiltered. Currently sold out. Another top-level Chasselas that makes you re-think these wines because it is big and sumptuous. Fine aromas, some flintstone, described accurately by the winery as “virile”. Really love the long finish.
- Various grapes (but not a blend, as these are complanted grapes, vinified together): Paccot/La Colombe Curzilles 2017. CHF21. Sour verging on bitter at this point but intriguing because it’s more interesting than the 2016 and this is a wine where each vintage has a distinct character. (Note in November: I’ve since tasted the 2017 twice and it is developing into a very fine wine, more complex, fruit more apparent). See my February 2019 report on Curzilles.
- Chasselas: Cave du Signal in Echichens/Morges, Les Raissenes 2018, biodynamic – no intrants, 10 months!! fermentation. Love the mouth, very complex. At CHF12, a terrific buy and a winery to explore further.
Reds from the Mémoire des Vins Suisses
- Plant Robert: Domaine Mermetus, Lavaux. Confirms my belief that this ancient version of Gamay is well worth the effort by a handful of Lavaux growers to save it, and that Mermetus makes the best one. Rich and fruity, 14% alcohol but it’s not particularly noticeable. The vines are at the top end of Lavaux, where they appreciate the cooler air, says winemaker Vincent Chollet. It is hard work to keep this grape’s typicity, he says; well worth it, say I. CHF24
- Syrah: Henri Cruchon, Echichens/Morges. Simply excellent. Herbs, grasses and pepper give a nose of really pleasant aromas, but it was the mouth I loved, so rich and mineral, so balanced, medium-long. CHF20
- Pinot Noir: La Colombe, Féchy, Vaud. La Colombe Noir is routinely one of my favourite Swiss Pinots, a wine that is so flexible that you can serve it with almost any food. Deep (20+ days maceration, 10-18 months in barrels) and yet lightly fruity, which sounds like a contradiction, and that’s the key to its success for me. Beautifully balanced mouth, even when I tasted it after a mix of other wines. Best to keep it a bit. CHF27.50
- Galotta: Cave La Côte, a 2016 that is fresh, but lets you appreciate the ageing potential of this newcomer wine with notes of black fruits and sweet spices. CHF22.90
And then to the Fêtes des Vignerons, attended by more than one million people during the three weeks it took place. Some of the actors were people whose wines I tasted during the afternoon. An evening of pure magic, not to be repeated for another 20-25 years.