Switzerland has such distinctly different areas that when you live in one you really have to move around and visit others to make sense of the whole. I’m spending a couple of days out of my French comfort zone to stumble and mumble in greater Zürich. With wine on the brain, of course.
Thursday evening Realwines, à Zurich retailer run by Paul Liversedge, presented its spring collection of wines, a mainly European basket of wonderful terroir wines. Some – the Beaujolais selections come to mind – will please anyone in the crowd, while others are for wine geeks looking to explore unusual wines.
Paul is British, long established in Switzerland, selling mainly to Swiss Germans. The whites he selected are gastronomy wines for me – you want to have them with food – richer and more aromatic than most of the whites we so love in western Switzerland.
I asked if he would agree with my observation that Swiss Germans and French (leaving aside Italian speakers for now) have different preferences or tastes, in wine. He gave it some thought and said perhaps, yes perhaps (another of my observations, from 30-plus years of being married to an Englishman is that they rarely say yes or no directly).
Those Swiss German taste buds
I added that this is from my tasting sessions with mainly professionals, who often seem to note wines differently, as if the judges are from two camps. The German speakers seem to veer towards bigger, more concentrated wines, perhaps appreciating a touch more sweetness than French speakers who, like the French, and unlike Americans, have developed a taste for more delicate, sometimes more austere, less garrulous wines. Hmmm, yes perhaps, yes he thinks he’s seen that, he said – and he looked relieved to turn me and my reductions of group’s taste buds over to a woman who is a Zürich area restaurant area owner.
She agreed that red wines like Primitivo, northern Italy’s Barolo, Barbara and Amarone wines as well as Iberian big reds have long been popular in German language areas. But this is changing, she argues. Here, as elsewhere in Europe, people’s eating habits are shifting: food is lighter, meals smaller. That said, four mid-range restaurant menus that I made a point of looking at Friday featured Primitivo.
Friday night I spoke to Paul, a wine consultant-distributor and producer who buys from French language areas for his customers across the Rösti curtain, as the language line is sometimes called. Definitely, there are differences in taste, he agreed.
For those of us who are Swiss, or maybe not, but not from these two cultural backgrounds, it simply means we have a bigger and more fun choice of wines. Without further ado, here are my favourites from wines I tasted in Zurich Friday:
Dominio del Urogallo’s Pesico Blanco(CHF25), an Asturian white, is a distinctly special – even odd – wine that I probably would hesitate to serve to most guests. This is from a small biodynamic vineyard with very steep slopes of slate in a region that doesn’t produce large quantities of wine (this is cider country). Earthy nose at first and undertones of mineralogy, then a rich mouth – really unlike any wine I can think of. Funky, good, but not for everyone. Drink it on its own or with strong cheese. The other white from this winery, Las Yolas (CHF35), is a calmer wine but still with great character, more citrus fruit and perfect with fish.
3 Beaujolais wines were standouts, a reminder how wonderful these Gamays can be when they are from great terroirs and made by excellent producers. Cote de Brouilly (CHF40) from Chateau Thivin has a wonderful nose of red fruit and a dense, rich mouth that carries through all the promise of that nose. Paul Janin’s Moulin a Vent (CHF22.90) is a classic for this area, and Guy Breton’s Vieille Vignes (CHF29.50) is, like the Thivin Brouilly, rich in fruit and beautifully balanced.
It was good to see Georg Fromm’s Graubünden Pinot Noir Spielmann (CHF60) here, the kind of bigger and elegant wine for which this Swiss canton is famous. Berries for the nose, fine structure, relatively long finish with cassis and bitter almonds, says Fromm, and I would agree.
And then the Riojas that I think must be a hit in this part of Switzerland: old-fashioned (and that’s not a negative term here) Lopez Heredia Viña Tondonia is the winery, and the Bosconia Reserva 2005 (CHF30) and Tondonia Reserva 2005 (CHF35) are both blends with Tempranillo the dominant grape. Dried berries nose for the Tondonia, more fruit to the nose of the Bosconia, both with mouths of very ripe fruits, great balance.
Wines available from Realwines.ch
Friday night’s wines
I had dinner in Küsnacht Friday night at Chez Crettol, one of owner Denise Crettol’s special evenings – this one was 60s and 70s music with a live band, the Yellow Dogs. I wrote an article on Chez Crettol for Swiss Wine Connection magazine’s special issue on Valais in March 2018, as the restaurant is a well-known Zurich raclette and fondue destination.
Thursday, Denise and her brother Jérémie, also a restaurant owner in canton Zurich, were named the “parrains” (like godparents) for Valais wines for this year at an event where the 2017 Valais vintage was presented: both of them promote Swiss and in particular Valais wines in their restaurants.
We had Nicolas Zufferey’s Pinot Gris from Sierre for an apéritif, Bernard Cavé’s (Vaud) Ollon, Coteau de Verschiez Chasselas from a magnum – perfect with slightly spicy asparagus – and Domaine Rouvinez‘s Chateau Lichten red blend from Leuk, three excellent wines.
Zurich knows how to drink well, and it’s not all big reds from abroad!