This was a fascinating tasting of organic and biodynamic wines organized by Vinum magazine in the lovely courtyard of the Hôtel Carlton in Lausanne. The tireless host, Alexandre Truffer, was really up against it on this hot afternoon juggling bottles in and out of ice buckets to maintain a semblance of proper tasting temperature. He did yeoman’s work.
The key takeaway from the afternoon was the showing of the so-called PIWI wines made from fungus resistant grape varieties. PIWI plantings may be the beginning of a secular trend for some growers in the northern latitudes, especially those who are organic or biodynamic, in that they offer the best chance for the routine harvesting of healthy grapes without chemical treatment. That several highly ranked wines were PIWI-based is a testament to the potential for this category in cooler locales.
That said, I was not a big fan of the two Johanniters presented as I found the floral and spicy aromatics to be slightly cloying (as in aftershave intensity) and the acidity too tenuous for an attractively balanced wine. The “Solaris Barrique”, on the other hand, was interesting and successful but I think more for reasons of processing and wine making than for innate cultivar complexity. Some of the reds were quite good; though somewhat funky and feral.
The one “orange” wine in the tasting was slightly outré and controversial. If we accept sherry, the sous voile-types from the Jura and the qvervi wines of Oslavia and elsewhere as legitimate categories then wines such as this should be evaluated in the same context. The relatively high ranking within the group and my own appreciation for this wine gives me confidence that it was fairly treated.
Finally, kudos to La Maison Carrée owner Jean-Denis Perrochet who was awarded vigneron of the year for his work in biodynamics mostly with the difficult pinot noir variety. His pinot noir “Le Lerin” was my coup de coeur in a landslide. In my opinion nothing else measured up to its purity and intensity of flavor; a real tour de force. His chasselas “Neuchâtel Vin Blanc Sur Lie” also performed well. It is a distinctly fresh take on chasselas and a departure from what is typically found in Vaud or Valais.
The wines listed below are in order of ranking by the judges with their cumulative numerical score, using the 20 point system, in parentheses. The figures in red indicate my ranking 1-10 for each category.
(8)(1/16.8) Johanniter “Grand Cru” 2014, Domaine la Capitane, La Côte, Vaud (PIWI): Pale gold in color. Nice assertive nose of pea shoots, fresh asparagus and leafy vegetation. Somewhat floral. Nice kabinet level sweetness with pear and floral flavors. Texture of mealy pears. A little sweeter than acids support. Not terribly balanced.
(2)(2/16.7) “Solaris Barrique” 2014, Weingut Sitenrain, Luzern (PIWI)(solaris): Solaris is a disease resistant, early ripening, high must weight hybrid developed in Germany in 1975. Pale straw color. Interesting toasty, BBQ smoke and charcuterie nose. Sweet palate entry then meaty and slightly aromatic underneath. Obviously wood-influenced but not obviously of wood (get it?). Not shy about asserting itself and ultimately a success.
(4)(3/16.6) “Finito” 2013, Domaine de Mythopia, Valais (sylvaner): An “orange” wine. Pink, onion skin and orange colored all at once. Very complex and interesting nose of marmalade, cider, sour apples, honey and coriander (bretty?). Flavors mirror nose with some curry to boot. Sharp, short finish. I think a success in this style for its fascinating nose.
(1) (4/16.6) Weissburgunder, “Malanser” 2014, Weinbau und Brennerei Zur Krone, Malans, Graübunden (pinot blanc): Straw colored. Slightly green with yeasty, toasty, bread and flint aromas. Palate entry is fat and sweet (residual sugar?) with well integrated flavors of minerals and bread. Finishes long and sweet. This outdoes most Swiss chardonnays I have tasted and holds nothing back. Very nice.
(5)(5/16.6) Neuchâtel Blanc “Vin Sur Lie” 2015, Domaine de la Maison Carrée, Auvernier, Neuchâtel (chasselas): Not filtered. Pale straw/gold in color. Lovely bread and fresh yeast aroma. Spicy palate with mandarin notes. Rich, balanced and very fresh.
(7)(6/16.5) Chardonnay, “Fricker” 2015, Weingut FiBL, Aargau: Straw colored. Herbs and yeast on the nose with soy sauce and wet cardboard. Palate is at once sweet and astringent in the way that meager chardonnay acts when overwhelmed with wood. This is trying to be too much but I will give it the benefit of the doubt until I try it again in a year or so.
(9)(7/16.5) Amigne di Vétroz “Grand Cru”, “Trocken” 2014, Jean-René Germanier, Vetroz, Valais: Straw/gold in color. Very shy nose of nuts and honey. Really had to coax it out of its shell. Palate is dominated by an acetic volatility that is hard to get past. Sharp finish.
(10)(8/16.5) Johanniter 2015, Quergut, Basel (PIWI): Pale gold in color. Very floral, slightly herbal nose with aftershave persistence. Full-bodied and sweet on the palate with some lemon confit. Finishes sweet without supporting acidity. Not impressed.
(3)(9/16.5) Petite Arvine 2014, Domaine de Beudon, Fully, Valais: Straw/gold in color. Fine, flinty nose verging on petrol. Lemon confit and laser-like focus. Palate is pin-point, zesty lemon with mineral edge. This is a touch tamer than when I first tasted it in February 2016 (Wine with Dinner: Randomly Tasted in February).
(6)(10/16.0) Riesling-Sylvaner, “Riegelhüsli” 2015, Winzerkeller Strasser, Zürich: Pale silver/straw in color. Delicate aroma of herbs and flowers. Very fresh. Plate is dry, crisp and perfumed. More sylvaner than riesling. I so much prefer this style of aromatic wine than the heavier (clumsier) over the top aromatics of the two Johanniters. I like the restrained dryness as well.
(5)(1/17.3) Merlot-Cabernet 2014, Turmgut Erlenbach, Meilen, Zürichsee (PIWI)(cabernet Jura/cabertin/merlotin): Dark garnet in color. Briary, wild berry aroma with green wood notes. Not sure what type of wood is on display but it seems raw and untreated. Otherwise the palate is very savory with leafy elements, green tobacco and herbs. Finish is dominated by wood.
(8)(2/17.3) “Le Rendez-Vous” 2014, Harry Zech Weinbau, Vaduz, Fürstentum Liechtenstein (gamaret/merlot/cabernet): Dense blue/purple in color. Initial pass is gassy, sweaty and reductive. Slowly blows off. Dark, savory nose of dried herbs and game is revealed—a little like syrah. Somewhat monolithic flavors of creosote, game, mint and dried herbs. Imposing and somewhat disjointed. Not my style.
(2)(3/17.1) Pinot Noir, “Barrique-Scadena” 2013, Weinbau und Brennerei Zur Krone, Malans, Graübunden: Dark garnet in color. Lovely wild cherry nose with background herbs and spice. A very saturated and textured palate with a touch of grittiness and wood tannin. Sweet fruit is well integrated and astutely balanced with wood. A very good pinot that falls a bit short of the sheer sexiness of the “Le Lerin” below.
(7)(4/17.0) Pinot Noir, “Barrique-Walenstadtner” 2014, Bosshart & Grimm, St. Gallen: Ruby/garnet in color. Very spicy, cherry nose dominated by raw, green wood. Palate is crisp with simple cherry fruit but again dominated by wood. More like merlot than pinot. This seems to me not a candidate for wood aging. I think it is overwhelmed otherwise seems pleasant enough underneath it all.
(4)(5/16.9) “Sans Titre” 2013, Javet & Javet, Vully, Fribourg (gamaret/merlot): Ruby/garnet in color. Very pleasant thickish, oaky, mulberry nose. Palate is a nice blend of red and black fruit with a pleasant chamois texture. Flavors are mostly of fresh green herbs and sweet fruit. The merlot component really gives it some of the typical chocolate cherry character. Nice wine.
(3)(6/16.6) Cabernet “Jura Im Steinbruch” 2014, Quergut, Basel-Landschaft, Basel (PIWI)(cabernet Jura): Solid purple in color. Creamy, mulberry nose with some oak and savory fresh herbs. Palate is bursting with fresh black berries. This is very well integrated, compact and focused. Finishes smooth and soft with very soft tannins. Very nice.
(10)(7/16.6) “Le Devin” 2013, Domaine de la Devinière, Satigny, Geneva (gamaret/diolinoir/garanoir): Saturated garnet to the rim. Summer berry patch aroma and dark berries. Light oak and vanilla as well. Palate is herbal, weedy and vegetative. Not especially attractive. Finishes intensely herbal.
(1)(8/16.5) Pinot Noir, “Le Lerin” 2013, Domaine de la Maison Carrée, Auvernier, Neuchâtel: Ruby/garnet in color. Gorgeous, spicy, deep Amarena cherry aroma with notes of vanilla and brushy undergrowth. Palate is silky textured with layer upon layer of sweet, ripe red and black fruit: strawberry, cassis, cherry, raspberry and fresh herbs. Flavor and texture of peach or apricot skin on the finish. Absolutely pure and seamless. One of the best Swiss pinots of my experience. Delicious. Bravo!
(9)(9/16.5) “Bio-Cuvée Jana” 2014, Bio-Weinbau Geiger, Ostschweizer Landwein, St. Gallen (PIWI)(Maréchal Foch/Regent/Blauburgunder/Cabernet Cortis/Cabernet Jura): Garnet colored. Layered nose of dark fruit and game. Wild fruit flavors that lack grip and focus. Palate is diffuse and the finish is a bit watery. OK.
(6)(10/16.3) Pinot Noir, “de Plaisir” 2014, Anne Müller Le Vin, Yvorne, Vaud: Solid ruby to the rim. Nice cherry and spice on the nose. Clean, fresh and simple. Light-weight palate with pretty cherry, tangy fruit. Finishes clean and short. Decent luncheon pinot. OK.