It’s the end of another month so here is a rundown of the bottles popped and enjoyed. I am beginning to recognize that Switzerland is a treasure trove of unique wines, places and people. There is passion and dedication here and we are beginning to see lots of experimentation to boot. There is a natural wine movement forming even though much of what is done here is already significantly vineyard driven, respectful of the land and traditionally made. In November’s “Randomly Chosen” several wines from the “natural” camp will be tasted. I look forward to that. In addition, sometime early in November I will post a profile of the terrific Domaine Denis Mercier of Sierre. I visited one morning with Madeleine Mercier Mottet, daughter, oenologue and mother of twin girls about her family’s winery and her philosophy. She will be heard from for years to come. I hope you all will check it out then. Merci et à bientôt.
Sauvignon Blanc, Les Amandines 2013, Domaine du Faubourg, Geneva (Sauvignon Blanc): Pale silvery straw color. Very shy nose with some grassy, herbal nuances and citrus peel. This variety seems neither-here-nor-there in Switzerland usually without much varietal definition (especially for a variety that usually screams its affiliation) or interest. This like most others I’ve tasted is missing a layer or two in the nose. On the palate appropriately snappy and lip-smacking but again without a lot of excitement. Aromatically identifiable as sauvignon but not much else going on.
Amigne, Vetroz 2014, Cave du Vieux Moulin, Valais (Amigne): The village of Vetroz accounts for 75% of all Amigne produced in Switzerland. This beauty is straw gold in color with a lovely honey, mandarin and mineral nose. Like many of the most interesting Swiss whites it carries a bit of residual sugar and slightly elevated alcohol (14%); not unlike the vendange tardive wines of Alsace or the demi-secs of Vouvray. The palate is lush and thick with greengage, cloudberries, honey and marzipan. Amigne is reputed to age well so I’ll be looking to older vintages for further enlightenment. Love it.
Clos du Mangold, Vieilles Vignes 2014, Domaine Cornulus, Valais (Chasselas): This is from the Clos du Mangold vineyard which sits upon one of the numerous limestone deposits found in the Alps and the Valais. This Chasselas is one of several varieties bottled separately under the CDM label. For me Chasselas is a puzzle. At its worst it is overwhelmingly feral, as in cat pee, cloyingly ordinary and without any focus. I don’t know how else to describe it. At its best, with low yields, planted in the best climats and carefully vinified it can be uniquely characterful and 100% Swiss. This is one of the latter. There is a nutty undertone of toasted walnut with higher notes of grapefruit and quince. Nothing is out of balance. The palate is slightly oily, weighty and thick with the aforementioned theme of fruit and nut intact. I know it really isn’t there but sometimes there seems to be an oxidative note, as in sous voile, that imparts an interesting saltiness. Very good Chasselas. Domaine Cornulus is a star in the Valais and here is more proof.
Muscat Sec 2014, Domaine Villard, Geneva (Muscat): Pale silver with a bit of green. Shy muscat nose, floral with lychee. Clean but very light-weight. Nothing wrong but nothing to spark any interest. Thin, watery with no perfume to finish.
Kerner, Malanser 2014, Wegelin, Graubünden (Kerner): Shimmery pale silver color. Upfront floral and muscat-y notes with grapefruit, spice and ginger. Some minerality. Kabinett-like balance of sweet and sour. Very perfumed palate of flowers and white fruit, spice and muscat. Interesting and good.
Merlot di Monteggio 2012, Tenuta Ronco di Persico, Ticino (Merlot): Pretty red brick ruby. Warm merlot nose of chocolate cherry and violet perhaps some wood vanilla. Soft and supple palate with a warm roundness. Stops short of cooked fruit. Simple and delicious. Very merlot. I like this.
Dôle, Chamoson 2014, Simon Maye & Fils, Valais (Pinot Noir/Gamay): There is a movement afoot to resuscitate the flagging fortunes of the Dôle AOC but it will only happen if the quality players commit to the challenge by blending better lots of gamay and pinot noir together. Toute simple. This one is a good example of stepping up the game. Dôle is a cousin to the similarly blended Bourgogne Passe-tout-grains. It shares the same pinot/gamay mix and some of the same problems: a notoriously sour disposition, a lack of generosity and an overall lack of definition. This one delivers a balanced nose of red berry and stone fruit and a lip-smacking palate that for the moment leans to acid and a little bitterness, nothing that a little bottle time can’t mitigate. Show me this again in a year and I think it will sing.
Pinot Noir, Auvernier 2011, La Maison Carrée, Neuchâtel (Pinot Noir): Deep garnet with brick highlights. Really lovely, healthy, saturated color. Nose is root-y (cooked beets) with sweet spices (cola spices), Amarena cherry, plum and herbs. Palate is mid-weight and round with lovely sweet fruit, again cherry and spice, with a long and perfumed finish. This reminded me immediately of circa 1970’s pinot noir from Oregon. I’m wondering if this is from the Wädenswil clone just as many Oregon pinots were before the push for more clonal diversity. I enjoyed this very much.
Coteau de Choulex, Constance 2011, Domaine de Miolan, Geneva (Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc): Lovely ruby robe. Warm nose of roasted black fruit, chocolate, caramel and herbs. Supple and very saturated palate, perhaps a touch sweet. Palate also warm (not hot) with very round, well polished fruit. Low tannins, perhaps lacking a little grip but very good nonetheless.
Syrah, Leytron 2009, Les Frères Philippoz, Valais (Syrah): Dark garnet with a mahogany tint. Nearly opaque. Roasted notes: meat, grain, fruit with some leather. The palate is fresh but not primary, some obvious acid, but very little tannic presence. Smooth but not round, perhaps a bit chunky with nothing elegant to boast of. A little spirit-y as in brandy. Maybe too much acid for its own good. Decent but I wanted better. I’ll give it some more time as I don’t think it demands immediate life support.
Garanoir, Le Baron de Placet 2012, Domaine du Faubourg, Geneva (Garanoir): A cross of Gamay noir and Reichensteiner developed locally at the Agroscope Changins near Lausanne (see video: http://bit.ly/1OMpBaO). Bright, limpid red/violet color and crystal clear. Initial nose dominated by onion and brassica but with aeration a pretty dark cherry and stone fruit aroma emerged. Never fully cleaned up though over the course of an hour. Lightweight palate with some ripe, sweet saturation. Weirdly sweet and sour. Mostly cherry and spice on the palate. Some say this variety can mimic pinot noir but not this example.
Gamay Diolinoir, Pellegrin 2014, Domaine Grand’Cour, Geneva (Gamay/Diolinoir): A proprietary blend of Gamay noir and Diolinoir (Pinot noir x Rouge de Diolly). Bright reddish/purple color. Opened with dank cellar and musty notes but cleaned up to show brassy high notes of red fruit, sour candy and wet stone. Mid-weight palate of sour candy, minerals and cooked beets. Some crû Beaujolais-like granite as well. Oddly, getting weird sweet and sour tease again which is becoming somewhat typical of Geneva reds.
Gamay, Venthône 2014, Mabillard-Fuchs, Valais (Gamay): This is good gamay and in some ways outclasses a lot of Beaujolais out there. This boasts a lovely garnet color that is solid to the rim. The nose is perfectly gamay meaning its warm, sappy nose of ripe red berries, spice and wet stone rewards repeated passes. It’s warm without veering into cooked. The palate offers a tangy, lip-smacking assortment of red fruit, spice and just a bit of game. Lovely and a great value.