Wine Advocate Interim End of January Issue—Switzerland: 50 Wines To Be Remembered
Close on the heels of Switzerland′s cameo in Issue 228 of the Wine Advocate is another review of 50 or so Swiss wines entitled “To Be Remembered” and several more included in a separate entry under “Miscellaneous Releases.” Switzerland′s star turn is indeed breathtaking and perhaps an indication that regular coverage in the Wine Advocate is on the horizon.
This is the third and final installment of Parker Does Switzerland, a three-part round-up of wines tasted and reviewed in common with Wine Advocate staff writer Stephen Reinhardt. What follows are my reviews and a commentary in red explaining any differences between Reinhardt’s views and my own. Unfortunately the Wine Advocate denied my request to republish the corresponding reviews for comparison.
Most of my notes were from Mémoire des Vins Suisses and Mémoire & Friends tastings in May and August of 2016 or during winery visits throughout the year. Virtually all of them appeared in these pages well before publication of the Wine Advocate reviews in December.
Chasselas, Clos du Mangold, Vieilles Vignes 2014, Domaine Cornulus, Valais: This is from the Clos du Mangold vineyard which sits stop one of the numerous limestone deposits found in the Valais Alps. 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, cloyingly ordinary and without 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 it seems an oxidative note, as in sous voile, imparts an interesting saltiness. Very good Chasselas. Domaine Cornulus is a star in the Valais and here is more proof.
Analysis: Perfect accord. This really is great chasselas year in and year out. The terroir is distinct and the winemaking supports it without the slightest interference. Every nuance is intact and the balance is impeccable. Terrific wine.
Chasselas, “Cuvée Vincent”—Calamin Grand Cru 2015, Domaine Blaise Duboux, Lavaux, Vaud: Straw/gold in color. Very ripe peach skin nose with a touch of pierre à fusil minerality. Big, fleshy palate with no residual sweetness. Lots of texture and extract with lovely peach and herbal flavors. Very impressive Calamin with discreet power. Delicious.
Analysis: Perfect accord—we agree on everything, even the flinty, pierre-à-fusil nose.
Chasselas, “Medinette”—Dézaley Grand Cru 2015, Domaine Louis Bovard, Lavaux, Vaud: Straw colored. Slightly more restrained in the nose than the Calamin. Tangy, fresh pineapple notes with a thin overlay of green fruit. Palate is sweet and pleasantly bitter with citrus oil, grapefruit pith and a strong mineral core. Very youthful and a bit clumsy as are many of the 2015s with slightly elevated alcohol and lavish textures. Needs time but “Medinette” is known for aging well.
Analysis: Relative divergence—I liked this better than Reinhardt who suggested that it is more powerful than stimulating and high in alcohol. Fair enough, but it is the easy equal to the Calamin above and perhaps the longer lived and slower to develop one between them. Medinette’s track record for aging speaks for itself.
Sauvignon Blanc, “Elevé en Barrique” 2014, Domaine les Hutins, Dardagny, Geneva: Straw in color with green streaks. Intense herbal nose that is unremittingly savory. Hard to detect much wood influence either in aroma or texture. Palate begins sweet and offers flavors of thyme and rosemary. A bit too herbal and one dimensional for me.
Analysis: Perfect accord—Swiss sauvignon blanc is a work in progress. There are far too many insipid examples and far too few even mildly interesting ones. It seems to me that there are so many great areas around the world for sauvignon blanc that the Swiss are foolish to pursue it.
Traminer 2015, Cru de l’Hôpital, Vully, Fribourg : (gewürztraminer): Straw colored. Lovely haunting rose petal nose. So pure. Delicate floral flavors literally perfume the mouth. Kiss me, I will never taste better. Persistent flavor and length. Textured. Lovely. Traminer is a house specialty here and to my mind they have a big lead.
Analysis: Perfect accord—a true gewürztraminer that is rich and balanced without the hot, alcoholic cast of so many examples from Alsace. This bottling is consistently poised and almost ethereal. Certainly the greatest gewürztraminer in Switzerland.
Grauburgunder Malanser 2015, Peter Wegelin Scadengut, Malans, Graubünden (pinot gris): Straw colored with a ruddy hue. Nose opens medicinal with some white flowers and peach skin. Palate is rich and dry but undeveloped and I fear a touch neutral. Maybe in an awkward stage. Judgment reserved.
Analysis: Significant divergence—Reinhardt thought much more of this than I did. Neutrality is a killer for me with this variety—think industrial pinot grigio or indifferent Oregon examples—and this one fits the bill. There are a few really good practitioners in Switzerland that it’s a shame to hold this one up as one of the better ones. I do like Peter Wegelin wines generally though.
Heida, “Veritas” 2013, St. Jodern Kellerei, Valais (savagnin): From 100 year-old vines located in Visperterminen. Pale straw in color. Very aromatic nose that gives up its traminer roots. Very sweet, full-bodied entry that is rich, thick and aromatic. Almost too much for me. I wonder about the residual sugar in some of these wines. It’s an impressive display but I think palate fatigue sets in too quickly. I’ll withhold judgment on this one and may try again in a couple of years.
Analysis: Significant divergence—Again Reinhardt is much kinder to this wine than I am. It’s simply too sweet and cloying for my taste and the note of cardboard he describes is also a negative for me. It all depends on how this ages but I just don’t see the balance to offer much hope of it ending well.
Completer Malanserrebe 2015, Weingut Donatsch, Malans, Graubünden: (barrique fermented—used oak) Straw colored. Fresh nose evokes the Friulano variety at its best: green almond, quince and white flowers. A green almond flavor persists with 5 grams residual sugar and balancing acids in spades. Perfect balance. Should evolve for decades. Every cellar should have a few of these.
Analysis: Significant divergence—As I mentioned in a previous post Reinhardt does not seem to grasp the significant and proven promise of completer as a young wine. His statement that this wine needs another year or two grossly misjudges its ability to age with grace. It needs significantly more time to begin to show its special qualities. He underrates this wine significantly especially given the greatness of this particular wine in this vintage.
Chardonnay 2014, Christian Hermann, Fläsch, Graubünden: (Barrel fermented and aged 10 months in 70% new French barriques.) Light straw/gold color. Leesy, toasty, miso nose. Underneath is lemon zest and vanilla. Palate is medium-bodied with toasted spice and brisk lemon flavors. Palate is also well structured with slightly shy fruit. Sharp and crisp. Needs a couple of years to soften.
Analysis: Perfect accord—I agree completely that this wine is dominated by its oaky cloak and needs some time to achieve any semblance of balance.
Pinot Noir 2014, Weingut Pircher, Eglisau, Zürich: Pretty ruby in color. Soft rooty spiciness with simple cherry fruit. Nicely textured cherry fruit on the palate with finishing acidity. This is nice but a bit one dimensional to me and not up to other vintages of this wine.
Analysis: General accord—I agree, nothing special although I might give it another point or two.
Pinot Noir “Grand Vin” 2014, Weingut Wolfer, Thurgau: Solid ruby color to the rim. Lovely red fruit quality with sweet spices and an odd (unidentifiable) note from the wood (or perhaps stems). Palate is saturated with cherry fruit and a bit of mocha. Strange green flavor follows through from the nose. Not bad, just unusual. Overall, nice wine.
Analysis: Reinhardt’s sample was corked but I think he may have rated this slightly higher than me given his appreciation for past Wolfer pinots. I like Wolfer but I sometimes think his wines can be a little stern and lacking generosity.
Pinot Noir “B” Rosenau 2014, Weinbau Ottiger, Luzern: Solid ruby color to the rim. Complex nose of cherry, herbs, black tea and leather. Palate is sweet with cherry pit concentration and flavors of fresh green herbs and red fruit. The finish is medium length and finishes with slightly dusty tannins. Very nice and will develop.
Analysis: General accord—We agree basically but Reinhardt found too much oak flavor which I didn’t note. Usually I’m the one for whom oak is an intrusion. Wonders never cease.
Pinot Noir No. 3 2014, Schlossgut Bachtobel, Thurgau: Pale ruby in color. Very shy, uncertain nose with some reduction. Lean textured with some cherry cola fruit. I’m still trying to get on a rhythm with this winery. I continue to be underwhelmed for the most part with the lack of real definition to the wines. There’s nothing to grab onto here. Not bad just a bit shallow.
Analysis: General accord—No big disagreement here although I think Reinhardt’s score is a point or two too high. As I mentioned I find the Bachtobel wines underwhelming especially given the local media hype for them. It seems in an effort to be refined and delicate—nothing wrong with that—they tend to bleach all flavor and texture from their wines. Just a little more fruit would go a long way.
Pinot Noir, Raissennaz 2014, Henri Cruchon, La Côte, Vaud: Transparent ruby shaded with browning elements. Fine spicy nose with amarena cherry depth and sweetness. An interesting volatile lift that is almost concerning. The palate presents the same spicy cherry fruit and nice sweetness but it′s all hemmed in by a sour component that prevents an expansion of flavor. Is this evidence of the spotted-wing drosophila(vinegar fly) that plagued the 2014 vintage in much of Switzerland? If so, too bad because the underlying wine seems special.
Analysis: General accord—I found the same volatility Reinhardt found in his first sample. The fact that his second sample was sound indicates a bottle variation issue. I hesitate to recommend this wine for cellaring even though it is still a decent drink even with the VA.
Balin 2014, Cantina Kopp von der Crone Visini, Barbengo, Ticino (merlot): (18 months new barriques, 7% arinarnoa *cabernet sauvignon x tannat*): Solid garnet center to rim. Oaky with plum, cherry and green herbs. Compact palate with creamy cherry fruit and seamless oak. Youthful, firm and self-contained. Round, furry tannins with a chamois-like texture. Excellent.
Analysis: General accord—Given Reinhardt’s description I wonder why he didn’t give it a higher score. It’s quite simply delicious in a compact and polished package. He seems to agree but scores it conservatively. It may be a bit too nuanced for his taste.
Wine Advocate Interim End of January Issue— Miscellaneous Releases
Pinot Noir, Fidler 2014, Weingut Georg Fromm, Malans, Graubünden: Deep ruby in color. Very aromatic nose of sweet spices, balsam and a green freshness. Palate is medium-weight but firm and fresh with cherry and spice. Very juicy and mouthwatering. A step up in quality.
Analysis: General accord—It seems Reinhardt liked this slightly better than I did. I found it a bit neutral but delicious enough.
Pinot Noir, Spielmann 2014, Weingut Georg Fromm, Malans, Graubünden: Solid ruby color. Nose is slightly pinched in due to reduction but some cherry shows through. Palate is sweeter and deeper than above with concentrated cherry flavor and stone fruit intensity. Very nicely textured. This is awkward now but will be lovely when resolved.
Analysis: General accord—I much prefer this to the above and find the 1 point differential between the two to be a bit safe. The scores don’t recognize the clear superiority of the Spielmann. Just a quibble as they are both wines of quality.
Pinot Noir, Chalofe—Thalheim 2013, Tom Litwan, Aargau: Visually the Chalofe cuvée is somehow “weightlessly” pink in color and entirely transparent. It does morph into a shade of darker ruby and develops a greater herbal accent with air, but the initial nose jumps with red fruit, sweet spices, savory herbs and a mix of balsam and cedar. There is no sense of alcohol present. Texturally, and this is a big part of its appeal, it offers a precise, lacy balance that seems hung together with the thinnest matrix of glycerol and fat. It is as pure and light on the palate as it is intensely flavored. There is no unfinished angle or unpolished edge. This is an architectural pinot noir of the Le Corbusier school.
Analysis: Perfect accord—No argument from here.