A touch of Scotland in our Swiss wines this week
Scotland’s cultural ties with France are centuries old, but Switzerland? Oh yes, and to prove it, here are two links, both contemporary and wine-centred. The first is wine producer Jamie McCulloch in Chamoson, Valais, a Scot who is a respected Valais wine producer.
The other tie is more surprising and subtle. Givrins, in Vaud, is where Philippe Bovet has been making excellent wines for several years. Go back a bit further in time and you’ll find him as a young Swiss wine producer-to-be studying how to make whisky in Scotland. He came home with two new skills, good English and distilled spirits know-how. Check out Les Plaisirs at his shop to see where the latter led him.
Today’s wines are both Pinot Noirs, nothing pale or timid about either of them, one from Givrins near Geneva and the other from the Swiss Alps.
Swiss Alpine Pinot
I first tasted Jamie McCulloch’s wines at Vinea in Sierre a few years ago. The name of the wine pulled me in, Black Magic. The aromas of very ripe red fruit and the velvety texture stood out from the crowd of several hundred wines. His accent in English caught my ear, although he slipped in and out of French and Swiss German smoothly at the busy stall. I thought the wine was a blend, an idea McCulloch only recently disabused me of: it is a “blend” of late harvest Pinot grapes added to Pinot from grapes harvested earlier. The oaked wine is a cousin to Amarone, which is made from grapes with tannins that need a lot of time to smooth out, unlike Pinot Noir. Black Magic is lighter and more amenable to a variety of foods.
This week I’ve uncorked his 2017 Black Magic, a wine that I think would keep well for several years, but it is fine drunk young. It’s a wine for cold, damp nights in Scotland, so it’s not surprising he sells well to good restaurants in Edinburgh. It’s also just right for Swiss nights where the underfloor heating is still coming on once the sun goes down. You need food to match.
This is not an aperitif wine; it needs hearty food. My suggestions for the meat are grilled steak or lamb, or veal with a rich sauce. Strong cheeses should work and Swiss-Italian style, we had it with a mushroom polenta with lots of freshly grated Parmesan. Here are several suggestions for food pairings with Amarone, all of which should work.
The nose gives you very ripe fruit, notably cherries, while the mouth is plummy and very smooth, with some sweetness from the high alcohol (14%) and withered grapes and finishing on a slightly bitter note of prunes, which is lovely as it keeps the sweetness balanced. Black Magic Cellar price, CHF35
See my profile of Jamie McCulloch and his Caves des Deux Cimes, 8 March 2019
Pinot Noir with a Mt Blanc view
Philippe Bovet’s wines seem to relish and benefit from their view straight across Lake Geneva to Mt Blanc. His Pinot Noir Indien (2017) is a memorable wine, for the punch of pure fruit it gives you when first poured, then for the balance and pleasure it offers once you move past its powerful handshake and settle down to conversation.
Bovet makes a wide range of wines on his 10 hectares and this is, surprisingly for me, one of his less expensive wines; it’s good value for money. It is more robust than many Pinot Noirs, the fruit – ripe small black and red berries – remains present throughout and the mouth is silky.
The night I opened it I went to his web site to see if I was remembering correctly that the name is inspired by Indian summer (I didn’t find the answer). What I found was his suggestion to have it with dark chocolate, which sounded odd to me. At the end of the meal I pulled out a small piece of very fine French dark chocolate, 85% from St Dominique. He was right. What a way to end a meal. Of course, you could always try a bottle of his stronger stuff, where you might find a hint of Scottish inspiration. Cellar price CHF19