I’ll be taking part in, and reporting back to you soon, on two annual events that are not open to the public but which will point you to some of the best Swiss wines.
The first is the annual selection of favourite Chasselas wines from canton Vaud, the Lauriers de Platine Terravin, organized by the quality label Terravin. It takes place near Lausanne 19 November; 30 of us – wine writers, sommeliers, oenologists – gather to spend the morning tasting a set of 16 wines, voting on our favourites in a series of tastings that whittle our list down to the wines that we declare to be the four best Vaud Chasselas wines.
The pressure is on!
We debate, argue and vote, in three elimination rounds. The 16 at the start are the best from the 200 Chasselas wines that qualify for the Terravin label; these are tasted regularly by the small group of top professionals who make the selection. Our job is not to judge the wines for quality, since these are already top-quality wines, but to choose, based on our personal likes, dislikes and preferences.
I’m keen to see if the Chasselas from the Domaine de la Ville de Morges, which won the 2015 Chasselas World Champion title in July, will be one of our 16. Some of my fellow tasters, who seem to have grown up with Chasselas in their veins, can quickly distinguish one village’s wine from its neighbour’s; I haven’t yet reached that point.
Wines in competitions are based on how they tasted to a group of judges on a specific day, whereas the Lauriers here are tasted several times before 19 November.
Whew, the pressure is off
Happily for us, at the end we are rewarded for our hard work by sampling these beautiful wines – the pressure is off! – at a cocktail followed by a meal prepared by super-chef Benoît Violier at the Hôtel de Ville in Crissier. There we sample some of the other Terravin label wines, with dishes created to go with them. All in a hard day’s work.
Valais “Étoiles”, star wines
Canton Valais is justifiably proud of its eight top grapes and the work producers have done in recent years to improve the wines made from them. Many of them are rarely produced elsewhere.
Some of my personal favourite Swiss wines are Petite Arvine for whites and Cornalin for reds. The best wine from each of these and six other grapes is awarded a Valais étoile, or star: Johannisberg, Heida, and Fendant are the other three whites; the blend Dôle, Humagne Rouge and Syrah are the other three reds.
The awards ceremony 3 December in Zurich marks the final stage of the Sélection, the Valais cantonal wine competition.