I learn about wine in four main ways, or places: the first and most important is with meals, at home or dining out, because wine is at its showy or discreet best when paired well with food and enjoyed because you’re relaxing. To learn here, you need to pay attention, though, and sometimes we drink just for the fun of it (surely you’ve done this?).
My personal cornerstones
I go to public wine events, which I strongly recommend to anyone wanting to learn more about wine – no sense of obligation to buy, the chance to compare different wines and, often, you can ask the producers questions, even the ones you’re sure are stupid (they aren’t, ever).
I also take part in professional wine tastings and classes, and I occasionally judge at wine competitions, which are good for improving technical knowledge (but my enjoyment of the wine skates on thin ice when I’m tasting 30+ wines in a short time).
The learning curve is endless, but even a little bit more knowledge adds to the pleasure of wine.
Learning how new grape varieties are turned into wines; Geneva’s new Bistro; Basel
Two of last week’s tasting experiences were very different. The first was an enlightening one with 40 Divico wines in Bramois, Valais, which about 50 people tasted to see how winemaking with this new grape variety is progressing. It made me respectful of the skill and work producers put into making fine wine, especially with grapes that are new; it requires far more than a recipe.
The second was a very fun lunch at the Bistro restaurant (Hotel Royale) in Geneva with chef Armel Bedouet (Gault-Millau 17/20), where we sampled an appealing new approach to informal dining.
I then spent two days in Basel tasting new and older vintage wines at the Mémoire des Vins Suisses annual meeting and public tasting of its members’ wines, one of the best events for learning about good Swiss wines.
Calendar: cantonal winery open days and more
Below, you’ll find dates for Switzerland’s six big wine springtime tasting events, the cantonal winery open days. Note that most cantons also have regional and often village events.
The number of on-tour tastings is growing; Vinea in particular is working to bring Swiss wines closer to you as a way of extending its annual September fair in Sierre.
Wine tourism is suddenly blossoming, with tastings linked to winery events. And then there is the relatively new wine truck (you know food trucks already, right?), which I recently checked out at Voie 10 next to the train station in Lausanne, where it was parked for two days. Chloé Paccot is behind the startup, L’Instant Vin. She is available to go on tour for private events and public ones where wineries or wine organizations are her partners – very cool new product!
There are several annual city events such as Divinum in Morges in April, Vinea in Sierre in September, newly-moved Arvinis in Geneva in November and Expovino in Zurich in late October, as well as the Coop Mondovino throughout the year in different cities. This list is not complete, but I hope it serves to whet your appetite for sampling Swiss wines and learning more about them.
And then there are the clubs, two of the best-known of which are Cave SA in Gland/Geneva, where I often go for wine classes and Divo in Vaud. Both sell and ship international and Swiss wines within the country. Divo now has a well-established touring schedule. And Divinum, the wine fair, has a club.
There are always the stationary Swiss wine-tasting centres with shops, three of which are very good, in French-speaking Switzerland, with cellar price wines:
Lavaux Vinorama near Vevey carries Lavaux wines. Please note that they carry my book, Vineglorious! Switzerland’s Wondrous World of Wines, a useful companion to your wine-tasting adventures;
ProVino wine bar & shop in Echallens above Lausanne has a large French-speaking Switzerland selection.
Chateau de Villa in Sierre, Valais carries Valais wines.
Here is the schedule for Terravin, which, to be clear, is not a wine competition but a quality label in canton Vaud, with some of the toughest criteria and judging I’ve seen. You can be sure the wines are very good.
Cantonal open winery days, starting with the soonest. More details on the official Swiss Wine site agenda.
- Swiss-German region, Sunday 5 May
- Neuchatel, Friday-Saturday 10-11 May
- Geneva, Saturday 25 May
- Ticino, Saturday-Sunday 25-26 May in Sottocerneri, 1-2 June weekend in Sopraceneri
- Valais Thursday-Saturday 30 May-1 June
- Vaud Saturday-Sunday 8-9 June