I normally opt to taste a lot of Pinot Noir at the Vinea Wine Fair, but this year my focus was other reds, in particular Gamays and Cornalins. My notes on favourites from tasting them yesterday – Friday – follow, ending with other reds that were among my top wines tasted at Vinea.
This year I didn’t include any whites – there’s a limit to how many wines I can comfortably taste while chatting with producers and other people I bump into (see photos). And there are beautiful white wines at Vinea, so I recommend that other visitors select one or two white grape varieties that interest them, taste those and then move on to some reds.
Tip: if you’re tasting tank-made and oaked versions of the same grape, taste the oaked ones after you’ve done the others.
It’s hot – be sure to carry a bottle of water with you and drink between visits to producers.
Best of the Gamays, rated
- tent 7, Cave Philippe Bovet in Givrins, Vaud – Gamay Pacifique 2014, oaked: Rich and elegant, much fruit on the nose, dense and fruity in mouth. The rare case where oaking helps make a real “wow” wine.
- tent 3, Domaine la Rodeline in Fully, Valais – Gamay Les Terrasses de Claudine 2015: nose with lovely slightly spicy, herby notes, light but complex in mouth, mouth-filling, medium-long finish. Very classy.
- tent 5, Cave Les Deux Cîmes in Le Trétien, Valais – Gamay 2015: beautiful deep red robe with bright highlights, a nose that begins with herbs and spices and quickly evolves to fresh fruits, rich and satisfying in mouth. A charmer. (be sure to try his Black Magic blend at some point during the day)
Very honourable mention for:
- Cave Philippe Bovet’s other Gamay, Atlantique, which is not oaked
- Cave Alain Emery (tent 7) in Aigle, Vaud, for Gamay Beauregard 2015, which is a light, clean and very honest Gamay that is fun on its own and will go with anything from pizza to roast chicken
- Cave Philippe et Véronyc Mettaz (tent 8) in Fully, Valais, for Gamay Les Mûres 2015, a more delicate nose than some, elegant.
Best of the Cornalins, rated
- tent 18, Cave Maurice Zufferey in Sierre, Valais – Cornalin Viouc 2014, oaked: deep purple robe, magnificent nose of black cherries with a hint of cocoa and spiciness, almost toasty, a mouth that is all complexity, rich fruit and elegance.
- tent 18, Cave Anne-Catherine et Denis Mercier in Sierre, Valais – Cornalin 2015: deep purple, nose that is complex and yet subtle – Denis calls it a “juvenile” wine (bottled just a few weeks ago) and it will be luscious with a bit more time, a mouth that is all cherries and black fruit. It’s not on their list of wines presented, so you will have to ask for it.
- tent 6, Cave La Romaine in Flanthey, Valais – Cornalin Cuvée des Empereurs 2015: a nose that is rather subtle but that will open more readily in two to three years; for a Cornalin that is not oaked, this offers a mouth that is remarkably concentrated and rich. The vines are grown at a lower altitude than the winery, “for what we want to do”, says oenologist Vincent Tenud: concentrated, powerful Cornalins. I was delighted to hear the cellar is coming out with an oaked (2 years) version at the end of 2016, just in time for Christmas gifts.
Very honourable mention goes to:
- Domaine des Muses in Sierre, Valais – Cornalin Tradition 2015, rich and opulent, spicy finish, still a bit young but going places. I was reassured by this, because I recently served the 2o14 at a tasting session in England, and it was austere, with fruit in the background, atypical for a Cornalin where Bing and black cherries should leap to mind. Discussing it with the grower who was serving the wine, it’s clear that 2015 was a big fruity year. Denis Mercier, also from Sierre, told me with a shake of his head that 2014 “was a very complicated year” for Cornalin growers, and the wines reflect that.
- Cave Maurice Zufferey for his other Cornalin, a 2015 that is not oaked and where the tannins are more obvious than the oaked version; fruity and rich and pleasant, still young – this is a wine I want to drink again in another couple years when the tannins will be better integrated.
Note that I did not have time to try Cornalins from producers who traditionally make excellent versions: Jean-Marie Pont (tent 19), Domaines Rouvinez (tent 19), Gregor Kuonen/Caveau de Salquenen (tent 12), Vins des Chevaliers (tent 12), Cave de la Madeleine (tent 13) – the latter, wines made by André Fontannaz, doesn’t have it listed, and he usually sells it out quickly because his Cornalin is beautiful as a rule.
The best of a mix of reds: my selection, not rated
Note that I did not include Pinot Noirs, here, beautiful wines that for me are in a class of their own, almost too delicate and elegant to be compared to bigger reds. In addition to the Cornalins and Gamays:
- tent 12, Vin d’Œuvre, Leuk-Stadt, Valais: Humagne Rouge Born to be Wild 2014, possibly the best Humagne Rouge I’ve tasted – it has all the rustic side that we expect with this grape, fruit-laden and dense, but it manages to be elegant at the same time. Billy-Joe the farmer goes Urban chic and succeeds.
- 17, Cave Les Sentes, Sierre, Valais: Serge Heymoz’s 2015 blend of Syrah (60%) and Cornalin (40%) – you’ll have to ask for it, not on the listed wines. Simply seductive! Lovely and fruity nose, very smooth in mouth, big and long finish. Mmmmm.
- tent G (Ticinowine), Brivio: 2013 blend Vigna d’Antan, Merlot (60%), Cabernet Sauvignon (30%) and Cabernet Franc (10%). Some of Bordeaux’s grapes, with emphasis on the Merlot. Elegant and a wonderful balanced wine for any occasion.