Mémoire & Friends: The Swiss Wine Event

The Memoire des Vins Suisse grand tasting debuted in 2005. It was created by a group of four Swiss wine journalists and enthusiasts to showcase the produce of 25 of the top names in Swiss wine. The earliest events focused on current releases with a retrospective tasting of mature wines the following day. The avowed purpose of the proposed annual gathering was to showcase the quality of Swiss wine and its collective ability to improve with age. The 2015 event, held on August 31, was re-christened Memoire & Friends and was expanded to include 135 producers each of whom presented a maximum of six wines. Masterclasses on a variety of subjects were made available to attendees and a retrospective tasting of the 2005 vintage was conducted.

The 2015 event was held on a beautiful late summer day in Zurich at the Kongresshaus event center along the Zurichsee. The auditorium was laid out in sections each devoted to a particular region or sub-region. They included:

DEUTSCHSCHWEIZ including Graubunden, St. Gallen, Thurgau, Schaffhausen, Zurich, Schwyz, Luzern, Aargau, Basel-Landschaft, Basel-Stadt and Bern,

The DREI-SEEN-REGION including Bern, Freiburg and Neuenburg

and NEUCHATEL, GENEVA, VAUD, VALAIS and TICINO.

Over the course of 7 hours, between bites of excellent Jambon de la Borne and aged Vacherin Fribourgeois, I worked my way through the auditorium first tasting the whites, then backtracking to taste the reds from over 30 producers chosen before the event. All were either recommended to me by local wine merchants and professionals or identified by me through sometimes fruitless research of professional periodicals and blogs. It quickly became clear that there is not a lot of information or commentary on Swiss wine, something I hope this blog will cure. Needless to say many wines were left untasted but I believe many of today’s most highly regarded producers were visited. I have made note of wines that I thought best represented the goals of the tasting. I have not included disappointments, there were some, or failures, yes there were some of those too, but instead focused on what really stood out. Fortunately, there were more than a few seriously impressive samples.

WHITE WINE

DEUTSCHSCHWEIZ-GRAUBUNDEN

Pinot Blanc, Jenins 2014, Weinbau Annatina Pelizzatti, Graubunden (Pinot Blanc): Correct nose of lemon, yeast and sawdust. Fresh, clean and bright. Light weight flavors of citrus (lemon curd) and cream. A delicious summer garden wine.

Pinot Blanc 2014, Weingut Donatsch, Graubunden (Pinot Blanc): Lovely citrus nose (lemon/lime) with a faint toastiness. Thicker textured than above with pear-like fullness. Fat and lingering on the palate. Very good.

Chardonnay, Passion 2014, Weingut Donatsch, Graubunden (Chardonnay): For my money the best chardonnay of the event. Lee-sy, toasty nose and apple fruit. Middle-weight palate with apple and tropical fruit, cream (not quite butter) and ripe, mouthwatering acids. Not Burgundy, not California but wonderfully alpine.

GENEVA

Grand’Cour Blanc 2014 (Pellegrin), Geneva (Kerner, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc): fresh fruit salad nose, pronounced new oak presence but not overdone (a la Bordeaux blanc). Very aromatic in the mouth with some slight oak tannin. At the moment perhaps a bit short but I’ll bet will gain length and complexity when integrated.

VAUD

St-Saphorin, Le Roc Noir 2014, Domaine Christophe Chappuis, Lavaux (Chasselas): Very good entry-level chasselas (18 CHF and under). Fresh, crunchy fruit. Dry with citrus brightness. Tell-tale white flowers and musky, melon fruit. Manages to avoid chasselas fatigue and heaviness. Lively.

Brez 2014, Domaine La Colombe, La Cote (Chasselas): Another very good entry-level chasselas. Baked pear aroma with the signature chasselas tell of musky fruit. More depth here with pear-like texture. Dry-ish with residual sweetness.

Calamin, Grand Cru Cuvee Vincent 2014, Domaine Blaise Duboux, Calamin (Chasselas): The best of the entry-level chasselas. A real step up. This steeply terraced vineyard sits atop an ancient landslide with well-mixed rubble. Fine, exotic nose of quince, white flowers and citrus cream. Light on the palate with measured texture and fresh acids. Lively and satisfying.

Dezaley, Grand Cru Haut de Pierre 2014, Domaine Blaise Duboux, Dezaley (Chasselas): Fabulous, penetrating musky melon and pear aroma. Rich and powerful palate with lingering baked quince and pear. Always with the musky chasselas bite. Huge sweet fruit.

Ilex, Grand Cru 2014, Domaine Louis Bovard, Calamin (Chasselas): This is a modern fermentation M. Bovard pointed out to me. Spry, lively nose of lemon with background musk. Clean, crisp, bright, mouthwatering fruit. Delicious.

Medinette, Grand Cru 2014, Domaine Louis Bovard, Dezaley (Chasselas): From the master of chasselas the very engaging and beloved, Louis Bovard. This is signature chasselas in every vintage. It always shows well even with years of age. This one, bottled two weeks before the event, showed everything associated with chasselas but with an intriguing nutty addition, an almost sous voile quality. Very rich, penetrating flavors but no tasting fatigue. Verging on sweet but faithfully dry.

Salix, Chenin Blanc 2013, Domaine Louis Bovard, Lavaux (Chenin Blanc): Minerally clean, apple fragrance nose. Savennieres nose, Vouvray palate? Distinct, honey and baked apple flavors but bone dry. Slight mushroom on the edges. This will age beautifully and represents the potential of this variety in fine Swiss soils.

Altesse 2014, Domaine Henri Cruchon, La Cote (Altesse): My favorite of the Cruchon whites. Pretty alpine flower aroma (white flowers) with incisive mineral streak. Laser focused with bright citrus fruit verging on lemon curd. Mouthwatering. Very good.

VALAIS

Petite Arvine, Clos de Mangold 2014, Domaine Cornulus, Valais (Petite Arvine): All the citrus components represented in a brisk, fresh nose. Lively palate if a little simple. There is a bit of sweetness on the palate. Light-weight style but very good apero.

Petite Arvine 2014, Anne-Catherine & Denis Mercier, Valais (Petite Arvine): Very likeable husband and wife team. Another bright and fresh petite arvine with all of the citrus suspects in attendance. Sleek is the term that keeps coming to mind to describe this lovely wine. Mouthwatering lemon/lime palate in a light-weight, accessible package.

Petite Arvine, Martigny 2014, Cave Gerald & Patricia Besse, Valais (Petite Arvine): Typical aromas of mandarin, grapefruit and pomelo mixed with flowery honey. Thicker textured than nose would indicate (this is also typical of petite arvine) with lush ripe flavors of grapefruit, candied fruit (rhubarb?) and liquid minerals. Very slight late harvest aspect. All in all, very refreshing and a satisfying drink.

Petite Arvine 2014, Histoire d’Enfer, Valais (Petite Arvine): Serious stuff. Grapefruit, honey, candied fruit nose with some lees. Fat palate but dry, or at least it wears its sugar well. Some length in what can otherwise be an abrupt finisher. This is a winery to watch as there are some serious players on the ownership side.

Grain Arvine, President Troillet 2014, Marie-Therese Chappaz, Valais (Petite Arvine): A monster. Thick aroma of baked rhubarb tart, candied grapefruit peel, honey and baked quince. This is what petite arvine aspires to be in the hands of a master. Explosive flavors of all of the above; intense, supple, long and fragrant. Very fine.

Ermitage, Les Serpentines, Martigny 2013, Cave Gerald & Patricia Besse, Valais (Marsanne): Delicate white flowers and stone fruit on the nose. Some spiciness to boot. Lighter-bodied, no oiliness or parafin here, with a fragrant palate.

Hermitage, Clos des Corbassieres 2013, Domaine Cornulus, Valais (Marsanne): Oh my! A candidate on the short list for Best in Show. A shocking nose of butter, baked fruit, bread, wood shavings and chestnut honey. Not as thick textured and oily as the great whites of Chave from Mauves but almost as exotic in all other aspects. I thought I might be over-reacting so I came back again and again and was refreshed and rejuvenated each time I dipped in. Absolutely delicious.

Heida, La Leyraz 2014, Domaines Rouvinez, Valais (Heida): Flinty, mineral nose with a slight floral aspect. No overt fruitiness but perhaps disjointed from recent bottling. I liked the wine for its novelty and promise but was slightly disappointed with the showing of this variety in general. Perhaps time will be a friend.

Heida, de Vex 2014, Jean-Rene Germanier, Valais (Heida): Best Heida of the day. Very rich nose with a slight sherry (sous voile) aspect. Underlying nuttiness. Loads of dry extract and flavor but with an interesting overlay of sweetness. This too seemed slightly unresolved (read: disjointed), so I will withhold judgment and look forward to another chance to taste it. Worth a mention though.

RED WINE

DEUTSCHSCHWEIZ-GRAUBUNDEN

Pinot (R)hein 2013, Pinot (R)hein, Graubunden (Pinot Noir): A four vineyard cooperative dedicated exclusively to pinot noir. Bright cherry nose with peach skin, herbs and cola spices. A touch green and herbal but overall pleasantly if not strongly scented. Middle-weight palate of cherries and herbs. This seems more ripe and round than earlier vintages on show.

Pinot Noir, Barrique, Jenins 2013, Annatina Pelizzatti, Graubunden (Pinot Noir): More serious stuff here. Obvious barrique influence. Round aromas of red and black fruit, herbs, vanilla and peach skin. Middle-weight palate with round stone fruit concentration. Cherries, plums and apricot.  Chamois texture.

Pinot Noir, Passion 2013, Weingut Donatsch, Graubunden (Pinot Noir): Pristine stone fruit nose. Densely cherry. Compact nose, utterly fresh. A regime of 40% new oak in this cuvee adds texture and a perfectly integrated level of aroma and flavor to its level of fruit extract. Sweet palate of pure stone fruit, nothing green. Manages to be saturated with fruit yet nimble and ethereal. Excellent.

DEUTSCHSCHWEIZ-THURGAU

Pinot Noir, No.3 2013, Schlossgut Bachtobel, Thurgau (Pinot Noir): My favorite of the Bachtobel stable. Very clean and correct nose of red fruit. Light-weight palate with linear and focused fruit. Simple and perhaps best with a slight chill. Drink soon.

VAUD

Dezaley, Grande Cuvee 2013, Domaine Louis Bovard, Dezaley (Merlot/Syrah): Exotic nose of cherries, smoke, cedar and spice. Wonderfully lush on the palate while slow-dancing with grace and persistence. Great length and saturation while all the while being light on its feet and utterly charming. Delicious.

VALAIS

Dole 2014, Anne-Catherine & Denis Mercier, Valais (Pinot Noir, Gamay, Galotta): Limpid garnet in color. Lovely nose of red fruits and dried rose petal. Light-weight palate with crunchy, fresh fruit. A little Dole tang with a squeaky clean finish, if a bit short. A good example of Dole.

Gamay, St-Theodule, Martigny 2013, Cave Gerald & Patricia Besse, Valais (Gamay): Pretty garnet with flecks of blue. Ripe nose of red fruit (Valais strawberries) and wet granite. Very suggestive of Fleurie or other soft Beaujolais. The best gamay I could find at this event. Very good.

Syrah, Cayas 2012, Jean-Rene Germanier, Valais (Syrah): Dark purple syrah. Nose of smoke and rubber with red and black fruits. Slightly gamey (gibiers). Dense, unyielding palate but not unduly heavy. A little stern and tannic but with more than enough fruit to age a decade or more. Would like to revisit in future. Impressive but perhaps not showing its best.

Pinot Noir 2014, Anne-Catherine & Denis Mercier, Valais (Pinot Noir): Head-of-a-pin precise. Not complex but with a light and fresh nose of cherry and herbs. As with all of the Mercier stable more palate than meets the nose. Always an extra level of saturation and fruity sweetness than both color and nose would suggest. Delicious.

Cornalin 2013, Histoire d’Enfer, Valais (Cornalin): Red variety native to Valais and Val d’Aosta. Rich and saturated crimson to the rim. Nose of mulberry and forest air. Sweet but slightly brooding. The palate is a joy of red and black berries with a slight oak flavor. Only soft, integrated tannins are present. Short-ish finish, which is typical.

Cornalin, Tradition 2014, Domaine des Muses, Valais (Cornalin): Very dark in appearance and solid to the rim. Youthful and slightly disjointed but a powerhouse in development. Lots of fruit extract (mulberry) and structural tannins. Seems low acid but more than enough matter to see itself forward.

Cornalin, Champmarais 2010, Jean-Rene Germanier, Valais (Cornalin): An excellent vintage in the Valais. Still solid and youthful in appearance. The nose is only slightly evolved from its solid core of black berries and vanilla. Some red fruit now peaks through. The palate is forceful but more rounded and textured. Dark fruit cream.

Cornalin 2013, Anne-Catherine & Denis Mercier, Valais (Cornalin): Once again Mercier stars in its category. Lovely berry cream fruit (as in aroma and texture). Somehow not developed but complete. Wonderful saturation of color and aroma. The palate is broad and textured with fantastically fragrant fruit. This Cornalin also has some length. Excellent.

Cornalin, Antica 2013, Domaine Cornulus, Valais (Cornalin): Another winner and a candidate for winery of the event along with Mercier and Donatsch. Textbook Cornalin with its pure, glittering color, explosive nose of roasted mulberry fruit and rich, silky, creamy palate. I am in love with this variety even though little more than a year ago I knew nothing about it. Exciting stuff.

Humagne Rouge, Tradition 2014, Domaine des Muses, Valais (Humagne): Very impressed with this new to me but ancient variety unique to the the Alps. Each example I tried was a new surprise. This one, perhaps the lightest of the group, still managed to impress with a broad, spicy nose of ripe red fruit (a la pinot noir but more intense). On the palate it is sweet (again like pinot) and layered with an ascending scale of flavor (peacock’s tail?) of spicy fruit.

Humagne Rouge, Enfer de la Roche 2013, Histoire d’Enfer, Valais (Humagne): A bit more foursquare, slightly drier and not as showy. The nose reminded me of a zweigelt with its aroma of wet stone and herbal, savory fruit. I got the impression that this was not showing its best but still impressive enough to acknowledge.

Humagne, Cepage Rouge 2011, Jean-Rene Germanier, Valais (Humagne): Now the ascent to the top begins. Full red currant, herbal, wet stone nose that dances and teases as do the best red burgundies. The tangy, layered fruit that follows is both complex and compelling. Very spicy, very rich and very sweet while maintaining utter dryness. Super length and persistence of flavor.

Humagne Rouge, Antica 2013, Domaine Cornulus, Valais (Humagne): My favorite of this superb group. All of the above attributes with an extra layer of saturation and intensity. Like the best wines of Burgundy and Piemonte there is an amazing balance of power and finesse present with a mouthwatering juiciness. Waves of flavor that linger.

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