Notes on several wines from the Lake Zurich region (background information on the area’s wines: Zürichsee, pendulum swings). I tasted these at a press wine tasting at the Wein&Sein Höcklistein, Rapperswil-Jona, in December, organized as part of a larger Swiss Wine & Friends tasting event.
The region has 32 wineries, and the quality level is consistently good. The main grapes here are Müller-Thurgau, Räuschling for whites and Pinot Noir for reds. As elsewhere in Switzerland, many more grapes are grown in small quantities. This is one of the few areas where you’ll find Scheurebe, a German grape that is slowly going out of fashion.
My selection here covers the best wines I tasted out of the 59 on offer. All are Zürichsee AOC.
Ratings: *, **, ***
Weingut Irsslinger, Wangen, Schwyz
Notable for its freshness, good balance – a very refreshing dry wine with pleasing acidity and notes of green apple, some grapefruit. CHF25
Dreistand – Weinbauzentrum Wädenswil
The Sauvignon Blanc has a Burgundy influence; it is made 70% in stainless steel and 30% oak in 2nd and 3rd use barrels. The wine is blended at the end. There is barely a hint of wood in the nose marked by exotic fruits, but the wood gives the wine a lovely roundness and elegance in mouth.
The Chardonnay is almost American in style (not my favourite wines), but a delicate smoky touch saves it, and the finish is good, with a very clean palate. This new winery has vines in three distinct locations.
Weingut Rütihof, Uerikon
Riesling-Sylvaner “Alte Reben” 2018* (CHF15)
Very good value for money, for this all-around good wine: old vines, higher up on the slopes 5 km towards Zurich from Rapperswil, which helps the aromas. A very classy R-S.
Weingut Bachmann, Stäfa
Sauvignon Blanc 2018* (CHF24)
A terrific and wild nose! Lots of gooseberries and passion fruit but something else I couldn’t determine until I looked at their web site: “… hints of a freshly mown flower meadow in the spring dew…” Of course! Not sure I would have worked that out on my own, but it fits. The mouth has a touch more residual sugar than I would like, but it’s a fine wine.
Lüthi (Eric, Susan) Weinbau, Männedorf
Pinot Gris Barrique 2018* (CHF23)
Very light in colour, so at first I thought it was quite young; the nose gives herbs, then forest fruits as it slowly unfolds. Quite acidic mouth, remarkably fresh. Oaked for 9 months, lies stirred. Note that I tasted this again, in February at Vinea on Tour in Geneva and enjoyed it even more: it is coming into its own now.
Müller Thurgau 2001 **
Another example of how certain Swiss wines age beautifully. Nearly two decades old and notable for its youth, freshness. A beautiful wine.
Räuschling R3 2008 ** (CHF28)
An excellent reminder that Räuschling can age well. Here, after 11 years, we have complexity, with notes of hazelnuts, wax yet also citrus that come in waves. In mouth it is big and creamy, which is suddenly offset by superb acidity. A beauty. R3 is a joint project of three producers, Rico Lüthi, Monica Hasler Bürgi and Alain Schwarzenbach. They started making it in 2007 as a homage to this classic grape from Lake Zurich, working together to make the absolute best wine from each vintage.
If you want to talk to a top Swiss winemaker about the value of aging red wines, Eric is your man; he ages his reds a minimum of three years and he recommends waiting 8-10 years to drink them. Not surprisingly, he has a string of national and international awards, including the Swiss Wine Vintage Award 2018 from Swiss Wine Connection. The cellar was named one of Gault-Millau’s top 125 Swiss wineries for 2020.
Weingut Erich Meier, Uetikon
A “wow” wine. Very hard to believe this was bottled just one week before I tasted it; normally wines need to settle and they have a raw edge to them at this stage. But the notes of red and black berries are there, it brings to mind fine younger Burgundies, and it is remarkable for its complexity and elegant structure. It is made in 1500 litre open vats with spontaneous fermentation. Complex, with a long finish, and I can’t wait to wait and try it later! The Pinot Noir Kirche is hugely popular, more complex and at CHF55 more expensive – the 2018 is already sold out. For me there is a bit too much petrol in the mouth and I would certainly want to wait to drink this one, which spends 11 months in new French oak. (CHF33)
Schwarzenbach Weinbau, Meilen
Räuschling Seehalden 2018* (CHF21)
A classic, this wine. When I tasted it in December I felt it was still too young, but the complexity and fruitiness were apparent, as was the balanced acidity that is a hallmark of this wine. Räuschling, made in good hands, has the potential to age very well, and I’ve had several vintages of this wine, well aged, and they are beauties.
Räuschling Seehalden 2009, for comparison **
Nose has evolved to honey and quince notes, really beautiful. Mouth is remarkable for the youth, freshness, good acidity – hard to believe this wine is more than 10 years old. The vines are a bit lower along the lakeshore than some, where they pick up lake winds that influence the aromas.
Meilener Pinot Barrique 2016* (CHF24)
Very classic balanced Pinot, easy to drink, young, but the potential is there –
Meilener Pinot Barrique 2009, for comparison **
Such elegance! The fruit is there, but it has far greater depth than the younger vintage, and yet it is still young. Note that this is a winery whose bottles can be drunk young, but hold onto them if you can, to see how beautifully then evolve.
This is a Pinot Gris/Sylvaner cross that is rarely found in Switzerland, although Le Petit Chateau in Mürten makes one and I love it. So I had to try this one, and again, it pleased. The nose gives lively citrus fruits and the mouth is delightfully fresh, medium long, a bit less exotic fruit and richness than the Neuchatel area one, but I would love this with fish from Lake Zurich. The fine old winery is right on the lakefront not far outside Zurich, a great place to visit. CHF19
What better way to end a Zürichsee wine tasting than with a fondue from Fribourg and 6 wines from Vaud as well as 6 Räuschlings from the Zurich area, in the garage tasting area of the Schwarzenbachs in Meilen! Three cheers for Switzerland, the bigger “region” in this wine story.