August is summer vacation month in Europe but there will be no let up on these pages. There’s always a lot of wine to taste, especially with the Weber grill at peak capacity, and wineries to visit. August will take me on a couple of excursions: first to Graubünden and Weinguts Donatsch and Adank in Bündner Herrschaft and then to La Maison Carrée in Auvernier near Neuchâtel. I look forward to meeting with the proprietors, walking the vineyards and talking shop. At the end of the month is the Mémoire & Friends Grand Tasting in Zürich. This year will be the last at the old Kongresshaus facility the longtime home of the event. There will no doubt be some stories told and special bottles opened. I will report on that in early September.
Now for the past month’s most interesting bottles.
Johannnisberg 2015, Denis Mercier, Valais (sylvaner): Pale silver/straw colored. Lovely aromatic nose of forest scents and sauvignon blanc-like citrus oils.The palate is full, ripe and round with a tight bitter edge. Lovely perfume fills the mouth. Very good length and definition. Thank goodness for the persistence of this grape in Valais because it makes such a delicious wine. Sylvaner is enjoying a modest renaissance in Germany (mostly Franken and Rheinhessen) but not much anywhere else. What a pity.
Fendant 2015, Valentina Andrei, Valais (chasselas): Pale straw colored. Balanced aromas of white flowers, apple and quince with a bit of feral pungency. Palate is medium-bodied and balanced with crunchy, yellow fruit and crisp acids. Very nicely rendered chasselas that will improve for a few years but is delicious now.
Chasselas, Les Bans 2015, Valentina Andrei, Valais: Pale straw/gold in color. Very savory nose of dried herbs, lemon oil and pierre à fusil. Palate is also savory and full of umami with very little fruit other than lemon peel. It does display an intense minerality in spades with an inviting, unctuous texture. I love this. Anyone who doubts how minerality is expressed in wine is invited to try Ms. Andrei’s Fendant and Chasselas “Les Bans” side by side. This is the genius of chasselas from the most favored sites in the hands of a master. Endlessly fascinating. “Les Bans” is an old vine, densely spaced, biodynamically farmed vineyard terrace near the mineral baths of Saillon outside Martigny. As a side note, I could have sworn this was treated to a secondary malolactic fermentation because of its aroma and texture but was told by Ms. Andrei that it was not so treated in order to preserve its freshness. This is the main difference between chasselas from Vaud and Valais. The former likes the complexity a secondary fermentation adds while the latter prefers freshness. She has succeeded in getting both.
Fendant 2015, Denis Mercier, Valais (chasselas): Pale straw colored. Thicker more heady nose than Ms. Andrei’s Fendant above. The fatness of the vintage really shows here. Very ripe aromas of melon, pear and jasmine. Palate is full-bodied and luxurious with sweet, rounded fruit with herbs, melon and pear. This is very good in the Valais style of this grape which emphasizes freshness and fruit over terroir and minerality.
Petite Arvine—Château Lichten 2015, Domaines Rouvinez, Loèche, Valais: Pale gold in color. Nose is a dead ringer for a Lemondrop cocktail with some white flowers and crushed stone. Medium-bodied with a solid ripe fruit core. Lemon, mandarin and mineral. Perfectly balanced. Not especially complex but delicious. None of the 2015 heat in the finish.
Gamay 2015, Valentina Andrei, Valais: Ruby/garnet color with a hint of rust. Fresh, appealing nose of ripe cherry and a leafy herbaceousness. With air the color darkens and the aroma crystallizes into sugared red flowers. Palate is fresh and tart then develops more depth of flavor: mostly cherry and some raspberry. Very nicely balanced. Not a blockbuster but very good gamay in a bright, fresh style.
Pinot Noir, Vinzel 2015, Domaine de la Croix (Yvan Parmelin), La Côte, Vaud: Pale rusty/rose colored. Nose is muddy, herbal and metallic with some red fruit. Lighter-bodied, savory, tinned fruit character. Slightly green and weedy as well. I am told that this is a cuvée made for the grocery and department store chain Manor. It’s fairly cheap but in this case you get what you pay for.
Pinot Noir, Eichholz 2014, Annatina Pelizzatti, Jeninser, Graubunden: Light, barely transparent garnet in color. Nose is red fruit and savory herbs but dominated by a raw, green streak of wood throughout. It lends a very odd, under-ripe impression to the wine. The palate is gritty and somewhat disjointed. Really difficult to make an evaluation because of the dominating flavor of the wood. Odd.
Rouge du Pays 2015, Valentina Andrei, Valais (cornalin): Deep and healthy looking garnet color. Youthful and undeveloped but very interesting nose of ripe red and black berries, smoked meat and perfectly lavished oak. Texture is appropriately grippy with primary fruit flavors hung upon a spine of oak and tannin. Lots of promise and excitement here. Ms. Andrei’s second vintage on her own appears to be a great success. From all accounts she is one of the Swiss winemakers to watch.
Rouge—Château Lichten 2013, Domaines Rouvinez, Loèches, Valais (cornalin, humagne rouge, syrah): Slightly fading rose colored. Lovely floral, fresh potting soil nose with cocoa, cedar and lead pencil. Medium-bodied and soft with very fine-grained flavors of mulberry, earth and rose petals. Claret-y: a little Bordeaux-like and a little Loire-like. Very polished overall impression, very drinkable and delicious. I liked this quite a bit as it shows real skill in blending. Drinking perfectly now.