Uncork now: my wine recommendations as well as reflections on what makes good and great wines, what wines work with what foods. You want to know what Swiss wines to buy, why and where, take them home and just enjoy them? Join me. Santé!
What to uncork, 7 February – Gamaret and Garanoir are two grape varieties that were developed in the 1970s in Switzerland to help wine producers create better blends, and give grapes that are resistant to disease (flavescence dorée) and fungal problems, in particular gray mould. Disease-resistant grapes allow growers to reduce chemical treatments.
Several wineries now make Garanoir-Gamaret blends which tend to be easy to drink, more robust than a Pinot Noir yet lighter than the more tannic wines such as Syrah and Cornalin, which are popular as hearty reds in Switzerland. I hesitate to call them table wines because too many people tend to think this means cheap and not particularly interesting. But they are very much wines that will go with uncomplicated home-cooked meals where a clean and precisely-made red is a good addition to the dinner table. The prices won’t break the bank and the alcohol levels are around 13%, so they don’t overwhelm the food (or your head).
Bovet’s Gamay touch
I’ve recently enjoyed two from Vaud. Philippe Bovet is at the Geneva end of the canton in Givrins and his Léman Rouge is 50% Gamay with 25% Gamaret and 25% Garanoir. The Gamay brings a bright cheerful freshness and notes of woodland berries. Very smooth tannins.
Classic duo blend: smooth, clean
I found a more typical blend of the two new grapes at a cellar I visited for the first time last week. I was interested in a white wine, their Chasselas Curzilles, from a vine parcel in Aubonne. It is a Terravin gold quality label wine. I am a judge most years at the Terravin selection for the best among 16 gold label Chasselas wines, held in Lausanne, but tasting a wine then and a few months later with a meal at home gives two very different experiences, and that’s what I was after.
Domaine des Remans in Lavigny, run by the Rossier family, cultivates vines in a swath of land from Lavigny to Féchy.
I spotted their Gamaret-Garanoir 2017 blend, which also carries a Terravin gold label. It is a classic example of these blends: rich, round and smooth yet slightly austere in the manner of Vaud wines that work so well with food. Blackberry and elderberry flower aromas. The winery says that the Gamaret gives it a slightly animal note while the Garanoir provides the smoothness in mouth. We had it at home with green beans and crumbled dried garden sweet tarragon and shepherd’s pie made with cheddar cheese. A fun Sunday evening meal in winter, after a trip to the UK. A perfect combination. CHF15
Geneva and Lavaux: single grape Gamarets
These grapes were designed for blends, but several wineries have successfully made single grape wines from them. One I very much like is the Gamaret from Domaine Mermetus in Lavaux, where the steep slopes and sunshine seem to give Gamaret more character. Others in Lavaux make similar wines, but the Chollets at Mermetus seem to have particularly good reds and their wonderful labels and corks are a bonus. CHF20 cellar price
Another way to learn more about Gamaret is to try the two single-grape Gamaret wines from Les Perrières in Satigny, Geneva. One is not oaked, price CHF13.50, and the other one is, price CHF17.50.
Garanoir, the grape
One of the triplets designed for better blends, with Gamaret and Mara, commercialized in 1990 and 2009 (respectively) by the Changins research station. A cross between Gamay Noir and Reichensteiner, it’s used mainly in blends in Geneva, Vaud and Valais for its added colour, fruit notes and spice; it lacks acidity, part of the reason it’s less popular than Gamaret, but it can addsoftness and smoothness to wines when needed.from Vineglorious! Switzerland’s Wondrous World of Wines
And Gamaret the grape
A cross between Pinot Noir and Reichensteiner, giving a grape that ripens early and is strongly resistant to rot, but not to the incurable flavescence dorée infection that has been creeping up from southern France, spread by the leafhopper insect that carries it. Deep purple, some spice, good tannins: it adds structure and is designed to work in a blend with Pinot Noir, but it’s also made as a varietal (single-grape wine), usually oaked. Popular in Geneva, Vaud and Valais.from Vineglorious! Switzerland’s Wondrous World of Wines