We carry about a
dozen different wines from Switzerland, a
wonderful country with an economy which is amazing. We used to go cross-country
skiing in the Engadiner Valley and I can say that the price of everything is high. A
few years ago a dozen eggs cost something like $9.00 !!!
Swiss wines are equally pricey. I recently tasted a flight of
extraordinarily expensive Merlots from Ticino. I know the cost of the wine
is inflated with the importer and distributor mark-up, as well as that of the
shop, but it's safe to say Swiss wines are not for the economy-minded wine
I was amused (some years ago) when the Wine Spectator did a cover story on Swiss wines, since these are not
much in demand in the U.S. marketplace. While publisher Marvin Shanken has succeeded
brilliantly with bringing cigars back into style for a brief period, I'm afraid he didn't have the same
effect on the sales of Swiss wines.
Most people are simply preparing a Raclette or Swiss Fondue
and are looking for something in keeping with the theme of the evening.
There's a quotation from Eunice Fried on Swiss wines which we appreciate: These wines attract the kind of consumer who loves to explore the next frontier before others know there is one.
The center of this region is the town of Sion, which is a
name you might encounter on a wine label.
The primary white grape is called
"Fendant" (known as Chasselas in other parts of the world) and its wine is dry,
a bit low in acidity and it's a bit subtle in terms of its
Sylvaner is also grown in this region, but it's known as
"Johannisberger," despite the presence (in tiny quantities) of Riesling.
Marsanne is cultivated here and is called "Ermitage," while Pinot Gris is
disguised as "Malvoisie."
Other grape varieties to be found include
Amigne, Arvine, Humagne and Païen (known as Heida in the Haut-Valais).
The Païen (Heida) is said to be the Savagnin of France's Jura region and this
is somehow related to Traminer.
Humagne is thought to be the most "typical" ambassador of the
Valais. It's described as having aromas reminiscent of lime blossoms and
experts will tell you it ages magnificently.
Arvine is a well-regarded variety and that variety has been planted in northwest
Italy where it makes some marvelous dry whites in the Val d'Aosta.
The Amigne grape was sparsely planted some years ago, but vintners seem to be
increasingly enamored with this variety. There's a tangerine/orange fruit
sort of character, typically and there are both dry and sweet versions.
The Sauvignon Blanc grape finds a place in the Valais and you'll find the
Rhone's Viognier here and there, but mostly in the town of Fully.
Chardonnay is planted hither and yon, but it's scattered and accounts for a tiny
percentage of the region's grape vines.
The upper Valais has a few curiosities, too...Lafnetscha, Himbertscha and
Gwäss can be found if you look diligently.
In red wines, Pinot Noir is the predominant variety, with Gamay also
being cultivated here. Typically wines labeled Dole are 2/3s Pinot Noir and 1/3
Gamay. As these tend to be chaptalized (sugar added to the unfermented
juice to make up for the natural lack thereof), the wines are usually a bit on the
Syrah now is making inroads in the region. In fact, Syrah seems to be an
ideal variety for this region and top growers are making some stellar
wines. Production, though, is limited and they seem to have difficulty
supplying their home market, so these are not easily found outside of the
Cornalin is another interesting red variety. It also goes by the name
Humagne Rouge, but it is not related, apparently, to the white version of
Humagne. Cornalin is found, as well, in the Val d'Aosta. It typically
offers a cherry-like fruit quality.
Diolinoir is an oddball...it's a cross of Pinot Noir and Rouge de Diolly (or
Robin Noir, if you prefer).
Gamaret, anyone? This is a hybrid of Gamay and Rechsteiner (a white grape)
and it now covers close to 1000 acres of vineyard land. There's even
another variety of the same parentage called Garanoir, though it's less
Carminoir is a crossing of Cabernet and Pinot Noir...it's a relatively new
variety, so the jury is out on this one.
Eyholzer Roter is mighty obscure and it's found in the Upper Valais.
There are about 22,000 grape growers in this region, tending but 5,200 hectares of
vines. Only 700 produce and bottle any wine commercially, so the bulk of the
production is handled by cooperatives or negociants.
This region includes the vines on the north shores of Lake
Geneva and the Rhône Valley. Chasselas is grown here (of course). It is in
the Vaud where you'll find the prestigious white wine called Dezaley where Chasselas is
said to be at its best.
The vineyards in the Côtes de l'Orbe, Bonvillars, on the shores of Lake
Neuchâtel and in Vully comprise about 10% of the Vaud. La Cote covers a
bit more than half of the Vaud, including the Morges region (Chasselas in white
and Gamay in red are the major varieties there).
Lavaux covers around 21% of the Vaud and some very important appellations,
including Dezaley and St. Saphorin.
The Chablais region tallies to 15% of the region's grapevines and here you'll
find the well-regarded Aigle area...the white wines are said to have a flinty
GENEVA This is Switzerland's third largest viticultural region and there
are close to 100 wineries within the area.
Conventional wisdom says Chasselas is cultivated here, but goes under the
name "Perlan." This is simply to confuse outsiders. Other
white grapes cultivate in the area include Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc,
Müller Thurgau, Sauvignon blanc, Gewürztraminer, Scheurebe and Aligoté.
Gamay is the red wine leader in the area, though there's Pinot Noir, a tiny bit
of Merlot and some lovely, world-class Syrah.
This appellation comprises three sub-regions and you
may hear people refer to this as the Three Lakes region.
In terms of grape varieties, Chasselas is king and the white wine bearing the Neuchâtel
name is quite famous.
Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc also find a home in Neuchâtel, along
with Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, Müller-Thurgau and
Viognier. Charmont and Doral are grown there, both being a cross of
Chardonnay and Chasselas. The "new" red varieties of Gamaret and
Garanoir are cultivated, as well.
You'll find some pale "blanc de
noir" wine which is typically called "Oeil de Perdrix" (eye of the
partridge). This term may have originated in Switzerland, it's said, but
it was not trademarked and so the term is found on bottles of French Champagnes
and other pink wines.
This is a wine area around Lake Biel, with sub-regions including La
Neuveville, Ligerz, Schafis, Schernelz and Twann. About half of the wine
in Bern is made from the Chasselas grape, with about one-third being Pinot noir,
Müller-Thurgau, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer account for most of
the rest of the production.
Here's an Italian-speaking part of Switzerland, just north of Italy and Merlot is the primary wine.
As noted above, these can be rather expensive and they find a receptive audience
on their home turf. The grape seems to have arrived from Bordeaux back in
the early 1900s. It proved well-suited way back when and today something
close to 80% of Ticino's vineyards are planted with Merlot.
However, there are a few vines of Pinot Noir, Cabernet
Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Gamaret, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon, Semillon and Pinot
Gris. Not to mention "nostrani Americani" (even the curiously foxy grape
called "Clinton" is cultivated here!).
There is a current fashion of vinifying the red Merlot grape as a white wine,
too. The use of small, French oak barrels is fashionable, too. Some
producers are making blended, barrel-aged whites, as well.
SWISS WINES IN THE
Prices are current as of February 2015
The Swiss franc is rather strong and stable, so it's been a common occurrence
for importers to adjust pricing based on the currency exchange rates. A
few years ago the pricing seemed to change with each new shipment and
vintage. We do not import these and are at the mercy of those who do...thanks for your
ROBERT GILLIARD The Gilliard family has more than a century of experience in
growing vines and making wine...theirs are our most popular Swiss selections
as the firm's products are routinely of good quality.
The firm began in 1885 and the family running it today is named Haller,
though related to Gilliard by marriage.
Gilliard makes a wine called "Les Murettes" which is a "Fendant
Pétillant" and bottled from the lees (spent yeast), somewhat like a
Muscadet from France's Loire Valley.
The vines are grown in slate and granite and you'll find a minerality in the
wine as a result.
$27.99 a bottle.--
A good red wine called "Dôle des Monts" is available. It's
a blend of about 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Gamay. The Pinot
component dominates and this shows a nice cherry-like character. It's
a smooth, medium-light bodied red.
DOMAINE DES MUSES
This small domaine is the work of an artisan vintner, Robert Taramarcaz.
The estate is situated in the Valais region with the cellar being in the town
of Sierre. Taramarcaz cultivates Chasselas here, along with an
impressive range of other interesting varieties such as Petite Arvine,
Cornalin, Humagne, amongst others.
Robert is a young fellow and in tasting through his wines you can see he
farms well and pays attention to the details in the cellar. Each wine
in the line-up was elegant, refined and simply brilliant.
While tasting his Fendant, I asked what the secret was in making a good wine
of the Chasselas grape. He smiled, happy, I gather, that someone
noticed his efforts with this variety.
"It's not just one thing. It's many little details," he
explained, adding "I have to really monitor this wine during its
fermentation and aging. If you don't pay attention, it can lose its
charm and character."
He's quite aware that while Chasselas isn't a "noble" grape like
Riesling or Pinot Noir, it is an important variety for the Valais region in
particular and Switzerland in general. And his Fendant is a
delight! We have the 2010 in the shop presently and this is a
terrific aperitif. Dry...no oak...but good quality and a nice starter
wine. We have some customers who pair it with a fondue.
Petite Arvine from Domaine des Muses is also good...nicely minerally and
stony. I was intrigued by the Humagne Blanc and after tasting this
wine asked him where he studied winemaking. Robert smiled again,
"confessing" he spent three years at the wine school in Dijon in
"Aha!" I remarked. "Now I understand!"
The Humagne is actually made in a somewhat Burgundian style, although the
oak treatment is not excessive.
We have their "Heida" white wine in the shop. Now this is an
intriguing bottle of wine!
Heida is made of the Savagnin grape. It's thought to be the Traminer
grape or a relative of Traminer, of which
"Gewurztraminer" is said to be a mutation. It's not as
floral, fruity and aromatic as Gewurztraminer, though. And if you
taste the wines of the Jura region where they make Savagnin, you might not
recognize this. Many of the Jura wines have notes of oxidation, but not
this. It's bright, mildly stony and there's a faint note of citrus peel on
the nose and palate.
Our local importer has yet to bring us any of their red wines,
though after tasting through the range, the Dole, a blend of Pinot Noir and
Gamay, was our pick.
Currently in Stock: 2010 FENDANT $31.99 (last
2010 HEIDA $39.99 (last bottles)
also known as "BON-PERE"
brand "Bon Pere" is rather well thought of in Switzerland, the
Germanier family having been winemakers for more than a century. The
firm is located in the town of Vétroz in the heart of the Valais region.
The firm is a proponent of organic farming practices, according to what I've
Vines average about 35 years of age and yields are kept to
"sensible" levels. A very fine Syrah (best Swiss red I've
tasted, I think) is cropped about 35 hectoliters per hectare. On the
other hand, Chasselas yields are more than double...no wonder its wine is
CAYAS Syrah du Valais is from the 2004 vintage. The wine is
matured in French oak, half of which is new. I find the wine to be
more elegant than many Rhône Syrahs, but still with nice spice, red fruit
aromas and flavors and a finish that lingers nicely. It is not cheap,
but if you've seen the price of Swiss chocolate or time-pieces, it's
Fly SwissAir's business class and you'll likely be offered a glass of the
Fendant "Vétroz Les Terrasses." The wine is made entirely
of Chasselas and shows lovely fruit...reminiscent of white flowers and a
hint of a minerally note. Dry and light.
"Balavaud" is a typical blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay. It
shows aromas of both...some cherry notes, along with strawberries.
Dry, I don't find much wood here. Smooth, it's best served at cool
Currently in stock: 2004 SYRAH $33.99 (last bottles)
DÔLE Balavaud ROUGE $29.99
fairly delicate little dry white wine. The wine comes from a vineyard
site overlooking the Lake of Neuchâtel. The soils are of limestone
and the wine is slightly reminiscent of a delicate white from Burgundy.
Best with delicate, simple seafood or
mildly-smoked fish. It's entirely Chasselas, of course. It
is one of our more popular offerings. Many people seem to enjoy
this with Raclette...though it's fine with light seafood dishes, too.
The d'Auvernier Pinot Noir is a light red wine...a far cry from the wines of
Monterey's Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Barbara or the Russian River
Valley. It's even a shade lighter than most Anderson Valley or
Willamette Valley Pinots.
Fans of local Pinots may not appreciate a wine of such delicacy, especially
since it doesn't have a percentage of Syrah to add color and body.
H. Badoux "Aigle les Murailles" $39.99
(back in stock)
One of the most famous wines in Switzerland, this is the one
depicting a small lizard (I don't think that's a food pairing suggestion,
though let me know if you do try this combination of vittles and vino).
Aigle comes from the Chablais area of the Vaud and is made entirely of
TESTUZ Dézaley is located on the shores of Lake Geneva
between Lausanne and Montreux. Some 13 generations of the Testuz
family have been "toiling" in the vineyards and this may account
for why they make a nice bottle of wine. They've had years to perfect
Their Dézaley wine is considered a "grand cru" (L'Arbalète being
the particular designation of this).
It's made entirely of Chasselas grown on a steep vineyard site that has
rather slatey sub-soils.
The wine is dry, mildly minerally with a hint of a honeyed note with a
faintly floral tone.
Sadly it's costly, but we still have customers who buy a bottle or two of
this for their Swiss dining (and wining) pleasure.
Currently in stock: TESTUZ "DÉZALEY"
Grand Cru L'ARBALÈTE" $59.99 (we keep but a few bottles in the shop, typically...give us some advance notice if you need a
quantity of this!)
LES FRERES DUBOIS & FILS
The Dubois brothers are the fourth generation to cultivate vines on slopes
overlooking Lake Geneva in the Dézaley area.
The name of this interesting dry white wine, made of Chasselas (like
Fendant, for example) stems from the vines being on steep slopes. If
there was some erosion and the vines slipped down the hill, this diabolical
catastrophe was attributed to the devil.
The cellars of this vintner are said to be reminiscent of the architecture
one finds in France, especially Paris. It's known as the "Petit
We keep a few bottles of this famous little white wine. so if you're
searching for a wine with the Epesses appellation, this is it!
Currently in stock: LA BRAISE D'ENFER (list $50) SALE
winery is in the Italian part of Switzerland and it's a fairly new
The company was founded in the 1980s and the current winery was constructed
in 1993. It features modern, stainless steel fermentation tanks and an
old-styled, vaulted ceiling cellar.
The vineyards comprise about 20 hectares and Delea turns out a range of
wines and some grappa. We currently have a nice little Merlot...not a
gussied up, oaky red wine, but a fairly typical example of Ticino red
wine. It's a medium-bodied wine offering some red fruit tones and a
faintly herbal note. It's smooth enough to drink immediately.
Currently in stock: DELEA Ticino MERLOT $29.99
DOMAINE DE MONTMOLLIN
Montmollin brothers run this old domain in the Neuchâtel region of
Pierre and Jean-Michel de Montmollin are fans of old vines and modern
technology. They're also interested in environmentally-friendly
They duo owns four different domaines, each on the north shore of Lake Neuchâtel. There's quite a range of wines being produced as well as
We have a rather nice example of Neuchâtel from these fellows...a 2009
vintage made of Chasselas. Dry and light, it pairs well with mild
seafood dishes best, but someone recently told us they enjoyed it at a
Currently in stock: MONTMOLLIN 2009 Neuchâtel $26.99
Rouvinez family owns numerous vineyard sites in the Valais region.
They own well more than 40 hectares of vineyards in eleven different sites
and they're producing an impressive range of wines.
We have a nice, medium-light bodied Dole, a blend of Gamay and Pinot
Noir. The Gamay brings a strawberry and fruity aspect to the wine,
while the Pinot Noir brings some nice character of cherries. It's not
a "big" wine, nor is it styled along the lines of New World reds,
so you won't find oak here, nor much tannin.
It's dry and not terribly tannic, so we like it served at cool cellar temp.
Currently in stock: ROUVINEZ "Dole de Sierre" $29.99
AVAILABLE BY SPECIAL ORDER 6 bottle minimum per wine Prices current as of July 2014...Subject
to change at the whim of the importer and currency fluctuations.
DOMAINE De MONTMOLLIN Neuchâtel PINOT NOIR $36.99
CAVE DE LA COTE "Dubaril" Chasselas Romand $22.99
"Dubaril" Gamay Romand $18.99
Caves Cidis Gamaret La Cote 2008 $29.99
LES FRERES DUBOIS et FILS Chasselas "De la Tour" Dezaley-Marsens $59.99
ADRIAN MATHIER NOUVEAU SALQUENEN "Lucifer" PINOT NOIR $39.99
Spaghetti Cultivation...Harvest time!
And if you have not seen this excellent video on the Swiss
cultivation of Spaghetti, do treat yourself to this educational presentation.