Two wines for you, both from Basel, from the same winery, this week: a classy Pinot Noir and a light, refreshing Riesling-Sylvaner, plus a question for you. Did you know that Riesling-Sylvaner, known as Müller-Thurgau outside Switzerland, is the country’s second most widely grown white grape, after Chasselas?
I saw just how good wines from Basel could be, during a two-day meeting 11-12 April in that city, with the Mémoire des Vins Suisses. I was able to taste pretty much the entire wine lineup from its newest winery member, during private and public tasting sessions and at meals, and I was impressed by the overall quality. The 50-plus “producer members” are cellars; Weingut Jauslin from Basel was welcomed Friday into this group of Switzerland’s winemaking elite. Note: I am a “specialist member” of the Mémoire.
Basel is not particularly known for its wines simply for the paucity of them. We are currently seeing a change, with some new plantings, but it’s not yet clear if this will continue. The city of Basel is close by and, with a financially comfortable population and numerous good restaurants, it’s a good market for winemakers. The Rhine famously broadens out here, at the borders with France and Germany. Several slopes along the Rhine river and its tributaries offer potentially excellent vineyards to growers, as they flow into the city from the countryside canton of Basel Land and nearby western Aargau.
Weingut Jauslin is in Muttenz, a stone’s throw from the city. It boasts beautiful vineyards that are part of the Jura hills landscape the tourism offices in this region like to display – if you’re not ripe for a trip just yet, you can get a good idea from beautiful photos on the winery’s informative web site (G). There is a good deal to see and do in the area, and the Jauslin winery is a fine base from which to start exploring it.
Urs and Regula’s wines have earned growing attention recently: in 2018 their top Pinot Noir won the award for the best entry at the Mondial des Pinots in Sierre and Gault-Millau included them in its list of Switzerland’s best 125 wineries. And now they have been invited to join the Mémoire. Their two sons work with them; the team is impressive for its products, in terms of wine quality but also wine tourism activities.
That Mondial des Pinots winning wine, Hohle Gasse Pinot Noir, is now in the collection of wines in the Mémoire des Vins Suisses, created in part to see how well the country’s best wines age. It will be tasted over the years and its development assessed. Meanwhile, we sampled the 2017 Thursday morning, then the 2016 at a public tasting session in the afternoon. It was outstanding. It is more like a Burgundy in feel and style than most Swiss Pinots, with black fruit notes and a roundness thanks in part to 12 months in French oak. Note that for lunch Friday we had their less expensive, fruity and very pleasing classic Pinot. CHF33, cellar price for the Hohge Gasse, CHF15 for the classic version.
The Jauslins make several white wines; their Riesling- Silvaner is in the mid-range Classic line. This is a wine that often gets bad press because it was overplanted first in Germany and then elsewhere, too often made as a slightly sweet or wishy-washy wine. The encyclopedic book Wine Grapes’s title for its section on this under-loved grape, “Prolific German invader of the world’s vineyards producing soft, semi-aromatic whites in over-abundance.”
And yet, in Switzerland, in the hands of a good producer, this is a very pleasant light wine that makes an easy aperitif or fine pairing with delicate fish. The nose has a slight floral touch but citrus fruits dominate and in mouth it has structure and is sufficiently acidic and dry. Cellar price: CHF13.50