It’s time once again to raid the cellars of generous MDVS members who, each year, invite wine media types, professionals and knowledgeable enthusiasts to taste through a mini-vertical of one of their signature wines. This year’s event was held at the Kursaal Event Center in the lovely capital city of Bern. Kursaal is an impressive meeting space that overlooks the Aare River and the old town center. Its downstairs casino and Michelin-starred restaurant lend a Las Vegas air to the proceedings but there is no sizzle and flash at these tables—just the serious business of swirling and spitting.
Fifty-six wineries from the main wine-growing areas of Switzerland each present three vintages of a signature wine chosen by the MDVS committee for its ability to age. That’s nearly 170 wines to taste in one session which is obviously too many for this and probably any other commentator to handle. So what follows are the highlights, as I see them, with some familiar names mixed in with some new ones.
Terroir du Crosex Grillé, Aigle, Vaud
Chasselas, Cuvée des Immortels 2015, Chablais, Vaud: Straw colored. Very herbal “dry martini” nose. Palate is powerful and somewhat hot. Some lemon confit flavor but a bit one dimensional and suppressed. Time may tell.
Chasselas, Cuvée des Immortels 2012, Chablais, Vaud: Straw colored. Very precise, fresh pea-shoot nose with lemon peel accent. Light-bodied with fresh, herbal flavors and a mineral, pierre-à-fusil bite. Very nice but still a bit undeveloped.
Chasselas, Cuvée des Immortels 2009, Chablais, Vaud: Lovely pineapple and white flowers nose. Lemony brightness on a creamy, nicely textured base. Medium-weight with detailing acidity. Everything in focus and in order. This is excellent with plenty of life ahead. It’s this kind of wine that makes chasselas fun.
Domaine Blaise Duboux, Epesses, Vaud
Calamin Grand Cru, Cuvée Vincent 2015, Vaud (chasselas): Straw colored. Intense white flowers and greengage. Slightly musky. Powerful and rich but balanced. Nice greengage (Reine Claude) and minerals, concentrated, full-bodied and lingering. Epic.
Calamin Grand Cru, Cuvée Vincent 2013, Vaud (chasselas): Straw colored. Very savory, herbal nose with some greengage. Lemon curd and green fruit flavors are delicious. Beautifully balanced with a hint of grassiness to finish. Excellent.
Calamin Grand Cru, Cuvée Vincent 2011, Vaud (chasselas): Dark straw colored. Focused, laser-like nose of fresh green herbs and yellow fruit. Yellow and green fruit on the palate with a lovely salty, mineral tension. Nicely detailed texture—soft but penetrating. Medium-bodied and long.
Caves de Chambleau, Colombier, Neuchâtel
Pinot Noir, Pur Sang 2014, Neuchâtel: Transparent ruby color. Sweet spice nose with hints of burning embers. Palate is sweet and ripe with caramel and balsamic-macerated cherries. Very spicy and sweet with savory highlights.
Pinot Noir, Pur Sang 2011, Neuchâtel: Dark ruby verging on garnet in color. Firm, compact nose of cola spices with fresh herbs and cherry. Ripe syrupy cherries and chocolate. Merlot-like. Balanced but slightly exaggerated in style.
Pinot Noir, Pur Sang 2008, Neuchâtel: Light garnet in color. Slightly cooked, cherry confiture with herbs. Palate is sweet, earthy and a bit drying. Notes of balsamic and clean earthy flavors. This one is beginning to dry up a bit but is still good.
Caves du Château d’Auvernier, Auvernier, Neuchâtel
Pinot Noir, Les Argiles 2014, Neuchâtel: Ruby verging on garnet in color. Pretty notes of cherry, herbs and forest floor. Slightly sharp entry leads to very rich and spicy dark fruit. Acids are a bit out of whack as are finishing tannins. Lingering dryness and bitterness. Wait and see.
Domaine de la Maison Carrée, Auvernier, Neuchâtel
Pinot Noir, Auvernier 2014, Auvernier: Transparent ruby in color. Pretty cherry/raspberry nose that is very delicate. More flavorful and saturated than it looks. Sweet compact fruit with a bit of noyau bitterness. Appropriately structured with restrained acidity and soft tannins. My guess is this will gain in color and body.
Pinot Noir, Auvernier 2011, Auvernier: Transparent, medium ruby with some secondary aromas. Dense, spiced cherry compote but still very fresh and detailed. A fine filigree of structural components. Utterly balanced and fine. A model of delicate, understated Swiss pinot noir.
Pinot Noir, Auvernier 2008, Auvernier: Transparent, medium ruby. Delicate nose of ripe red fruit with some cola spice. Light-bodied but with saturated, pure fruit essence. Round, sweet and caressing. Fully resolved with no sign of fatigue. Delicious.
Cave du Rhodan, Salgesch, Valais
Pinot Noir, Hommage 2015, Valais: Dark ruby in color. Sweet cherry and pickling spice aroma. Palate is fresh and vigorous with slightly sour cherry and raspberry fruit. Good density and saturation but decidedly acidic and clumsy. Not bad just a bit awkward at the moment.
Pinot Noir, Hommage 2012, Valais: Medium ruby in color. Lots of heady incense notes with herbs and stems. Cannabis sativa-like intensity. Ripe, sweet cherry fruit somewhat overwhelmed by palpable herbal notes. Finishes a bit clipped with assertive, slightly bitter tannins. Judgment reserved.
Pinot Noir, Hommage 2009, Valais: Dark ruby in color. Fabulous spice box nose with resiny, almost feral, notes. A rich confit of cherry and strawberry fruit cascades on the palate. Super-saturated but seamless and balanced. Vaguely reminiscent of a ripe grenache from Cairanne. Deliciously sweet and spicy. Very long. One of the surprises of the tasting. A very nice wine.
Anne-Catherine & Denis Mercier, Sierre, Valais
Cornalin 2014, Valais: Garnet colored with hints of purple and blue. Luscious sweet and savory nose with raspberry jam, dried figs, green tobacco, herbs and tar. This is really distinctive. Very exciting, seamless palate of creamy mulberry and powdered stone. Medium-weight but saturated with delicious fresh fruit and waves of cream and satin. Very polished and delicious.
Cornalin 2011, Valais: Solid garnet/purple to the rim. Exotic nose of roasted fruit, tar, creosote and charcoal. Powerful and somewhat wild flavors of blackberry confit and crème liqueur. Still unintegrated acids and tannins but still very youthful and undeveloped. This is a beauty.
Cornalin 2008, Valais: Dark garnet in color with some development at the rim. Signature tar and creosote set-off by unusual tart, cranberry fruit. Palate reflects the sharpness of the nose with tart fruit flavors. A bit out of balance right now but with so much stuffing and no sign of fatigue there is time to wait. Judgment reserved.
Domaine Cornulus, Savièse, Valais:
Vieilles Vignes, Clos de Mangold 2015, Valais (chasselas): Pale straw with green highlights. Vegetative (fresh asparagus?) and herbal with lemon oil. At this point slightly clumsy and weighty. Not a lot of definition but with a substantial alcoholic bite. This seems in an awkward place right now. 2015 is a tricky vintage for chasselas which relies on freshness and balance for its appeal.
Vieilles Vignes, Clos de Mangold 2012, Valais (chasselas): Straw with flecks of green. Spring-like nose of fresh pea shoots and tarragon. Fragrant in the mouth: white flowers and reglisse. Lingering scent of emerging leaves and wet stones. Nicely developed.
Vieilles Vignes, Clos de Mangold 2009, Valais (chasselas): Dark straw in color. A different side of chasselas. Incisive lemon nose with mineral finesse. Flavors are bright and crisp. Lemondrop cocktail meets salty Margarita. Bracing and refreshing with a lot of length and a snappy conclusion. Great older chasselas.
Simon Maye & Fils, St.-Pierre-de-Clages, Valais
Syrah, Vieilles Vignes, Chamoson 2014, Valais: Dark garnet in color. Assertively herbal nose with pickled beets and beet greens. Rooty, stemmy flavors of mustard, peppercress and chicories. Not especially attractive elements of reduction. Hard to chew through to find any fruit. Judgment reserved.
Syrah, Vieilles Vignes, Chamoson 2011, Valais: Dark garnet in color with some rim development. Chocolatey, blackberry nose with walnuts. Dense savory/fruity amalgam that is just beginning to spread out. Lots of chewy matter that promises some of that classic syrah—meat-meets-flame—savoriness. Very good potential.
Syrah, Vieilles Vignes, Chamoson 2008, Valais: Garnet in color. Nose of smokey embers, oak and some charcuterie. Somewhat sour entry recalling tangy salumi. Savory, slightly gamey flavors that are cut short with acid. Not well developed but for those who like savory syrah this might have some appeal.
Benoît Dorsaz, Fully, Valais
Syrah, Quintessence, Fully 2014, Valais: Dark garnet in color. Black fruit confiture with smoke and burning embers. A bit foursquare on the palate with rich, roasted black fruit. Sweet but blunt and blocky. Gathering alcoholic heat to finish.
Syrah, Quintessence, Fully 2012, Valais: Slightly advanced garnet color. Briar patch nose with ripe, cooked blackberry preserves. Flavors of blackberry and green herbs (stems?). Sweet fruit and lush texture with rounded tannins. Heat to finish.
Syrah, Quintessence, Fully 2010, Valais: Very healthy, saturated garnet color. Lovely, fresh blackberry nose. Lush, fresh tasting fruit with a bit of tannic definition. Assertive acids contribute to structural details and are a welcome counterpoint to the thick, ripe fruit. Nicely balanced on a big frame. Very nice.
Weingut zum Sternen, Würenlingen, Aargau
Pinot Noir, Kloster Sion, Klingnau Réserve 2014, Aargau: Ruby in color. Intense ripe cherry nose with spice and incense (pine?). Dark cherry flavors with herbs. Very large framed but balanced. Substantial tannins.
Pinot Noir, Kloster Sion, Klingnau Réserve 2011, Aargau: Dark ruby in color. Vegetative nose with notes of mustard, fennel and peppercress. Very sweet red fruit flavors with peppercress and black pepper nuances. Very round with ripe, sweet fruit.
Pinot Noir, Kloster Sion, Klingnau Réserve 2008, Aargau: Ruby/garnet in color. Fresh and clean nose that is not especially developed. Still somewhat primary. A little cigar box. The palate is saturated with thick, ripe cherry fruit. Seamless and delicious if a bit heavy. A gourmand’s pinot.
Weinbau Ottiger, Kastanienbaum, Luzern
Pinot Noir, “B”, Rosenau 2015, Luzern: Ruby in color. Very primary herbal fruit with strong fermentation aromas. Crisp, crackling fruit in the cranberry vein. Substantial acids and moderate tannin. All structure right now. This is a very simple, direct style of pinot noir. Sound but not very exciting.
Pinot Noir, “B”, Rosenau 2014, Luzern: Ruby in color. Fresh herb and green stem nose. Flavors are led by cherry fruit with sweet spices. Nicely textured and very well balanced. Not at all thick. Good, if a bit one-dimensional.
Weingut Hermann, Fläsch, Graubünden
Completer, Fläscher 2015, Graubünden: Pale straw in color. Very clean, toasted oak aroma with some lemon zest. Bright, medium-bodied lemon and cream fruit. Structural acids dominate now (as is typical in young completer) but is showy enough to suggest a lovely, leisurely evolution.
Completer, Fläscher 2012, Graubünden: Straw colored. Mixed grapefruit, guava and passion fruit nose with some fresh, vegetative green notes. Tropical fruit carry-over with abundant mineral notes. Sleek, refined and balanced but still a baby. Nice progression from 2015 to here. Very good to outstanding.
Completer, Fläscher 2009, Graubünden: Medium straw colored. Mature notes of roasted grain and butterscotch. Palate is lush and sweet with vanilla, butterscotch and an overlay of minerality. Despite its somewhat evolved state it manages to retain a very fresh, wholesome presence. Its vitality is confirmed by a tingling acidity.
Weingut Donatsch, Malans, Graubünden
Completer, Malanserrebe 2009, Graubünden: Medium straw colored. Gorgeous grapefruit and pineapple aromas. Very youthful. Seemingly lower acid than Hermann wines above but it still pops. Loads of tropical flavors that are rich and sweet. Liquid satin. Excellent.
Weingut Georg Fromm, Malans, Graubünden
Pinot Noir, Selvenen 2014, Graubünden: Dark ruby in color. Lovely cherry and fresh ginger aroma. Slightly rooty and earthy as well. Palate is bright with cherry and stone-fruit flavors, sweet spices and a gingery kick. Very well balanced with a youthfully lean frame and vibrant acids. Very good.
Pinot Noir, Selvenen 2011, Graubünden: Ruby in color. Beautifully detailed spicy cherry nose with vanilla and oak. Round, seamlessly textured palate of glossy cherry fruit. Loads of sweet spices and rhubarb extract. Brilliantly balanced and perfectly resolved. Excellent.
Pinot Noir, Selvenen 2008, Graubünden: Ruby in color with some development at the edges. Super spicy and green aromas that do not suggest balance or focus. Once in the mouth a disturbing dryness intrudes. Maybe cracking a bit. Overly dry and tannic on the finish. Not a lot to like here.
Huber Vini, Termine, Ticino
Montagna Magica 2014, Huber Vini, Ticino (merlot/cabernet franc): Transparent ruby in color. Nose offers some savory notes, mostly herbal and some vanilla. Some volatility as well. Palate is tight with high acid and acetic flavors. Drosophila Suzukii issues? Judgment reserved.
Montagna Magica 2011, Huber Vini, Ticino (merlot/cabernet franc): Garnet in color. Broad and warm merlot nose with cooked cherry, beets, rhubarb and malt. Palate is warm and opulent with that somewhat amorphous texture merlot is known for—the opposite of structure. Nevertheless, crowd-pleasing, saturated flavors of the stone-fruit ilk. Quite good and irresistible.
Montagna Magica 2008, Huber Vini, Ticino (merlot/cabernet franc): Medium garnet in color. Unusual aromas of cherry and jalapeño peppers. Capsicum spice follows through on the palate along with sweet cherry and a bit of raw wood. Despite its brashness I like its solid structure and potential for development. Interesting.
Tenuta Castello di Morcote, Vico Morcote, Ticino
Pio della Rocca 2014, IGT della Svizzera Italiana (merlot/cabernet sauvignon): Garnet in color. Characteristic chocolate-cherry nose speaks of merlot. Palate is a bit of a shock. Instead of ripe, sweet fruit we get a healthy dose of acid. One can carve out some of the chocolate-cherry flavors with some effort but I think balance will be an issue going forward.
Pio della Rocca 2011, IGT della Svizzera Italiana (merlot/cabernet sauvignon): Cloudy garnet in color and appearance. Warm, cooked cherry fruit with fresh green herbs on the nose. Jammy fruit and green walnuts on the palate. Flavors are warm and sweet. Texture is broad and layered. Good depth. I really like this one.
Pio della Rocca 2008, IGT della Svizzera Italiana (merlot/cabernet sauvignon): Garnet colored with some development on the edges. Warm and slightly gravelly nose of pretty cherry fruit. Perfectly developed, round and sweet. Cherry confit with a bit of noyau (green almond) bitterness. Weightless and almost structureless. Can it go anywhere from here? Delicious.
Kopp von der Crone Visini, Barbengo, Ticino
Balin 2011, IGT della Svizzera Italiana (merlot/arinarnoa/cabernet sauvignon): Garnet in color. Warm, merlot nose with some burning embers. Cherry fruit is delicious, sweet and very round. Nicely textured with some lingering acid and a bit of soft tannic structure. Very good
Balin 2008, IGT della Svizzera Italiana (merlot/arinarnoa/cabernet sauvignon): Medium garnet colored. Cascading merlot nose with green walnut detail. Firm and a bit stern on entry with some chewy cherry fruit. Acids are a bit outsized but there seems to be enough fruit to permit further development. Balance may be an issue.