The Wine Advocate’s Latest Swiss Foray

It’s like a national holiday in the Confederation when The Wine Advocate shows up with new reporting on the nation’s wines. I can attest: everyone in the business is on alert — social media accounts fire-up, graphics departments get busy creating shelf-talkers and every commentator worth their weight in chasselas opines on the results. The current issue — Issue 247 End of February 2020 — contains more than 400 notes on a wide range of wines from every region in the country (sadly, only one producer from Geneva). To its credit the WA is the only international publication to conduct regular visits here and its Swiss critic, Stephan Reinhardt, is an enthusiastic champion of the local scene.

As Lisa Perotti-Brown told me at last year’s Must Fermenting Ideas Conference in Cascais, Portugal:

“Switzerland is an important market for us and the success of The Matter of Taste event in Zürich each year compels us to cover it.”

That said, I find it interesting that in his opening statement Mr. Reinhardt seems a bit more circumspect than usual, in particular, his comment that the Swiss wine industry is deceptively complex for such a tiny nation. He admits that he can barely do it justice in the amount of time allotted and that his time here is unlikely to increase given the limited footprint of Swiss wine on the international market. His tone is both apologetic and, it seems, resigned.

On the issue of time and breadth of coverage, Pierre Thomas, one of Switzerland’s most astute commentators, suggests that the WA has shown a past bias for the wines from German-speaking Switzerland. I won’t argue with that, but I would add that a disproportionate amount of time that is spent in Swiss Romande is with the largest producers. Thomas goes on to point out that 65 of the 152 wines tasted from Valais come from just three producers: a cooperative, Provins, and two of the largest land-holders, Jean-René Germanier and Maison Gilliard. All three are recognizable fixtures in the supermarkets of Switzerland. This is not to impugn their quality (they are good and consistent) but only to suggest that the available time may be better spent elsewhere for a more complete picture of the Swiss scene.

I can’t help but think this is what Mr. Reinhardt was referring to when he said:

” . . . it’s impossible for me to stay here for a longer time and to inform you about trends and styles in detail or about the marketing that, more often than not, is connected with the many appellations that even I do not understand after five years of traveling through Switzerland.”

Again, the tone seems resigned, from which we can infer that greater coverage is not forthcoming. My takeaway? You can’t beat local coverage and, fortunately, there’s plenty of that.

Anyway, I applaud the WA and Mr. Reinhardt for their efforts to bring this great industry to the attention of enthusiasts everywhere. 

I’d also like to mention a couple of other things that caught my attention.

I was happy to see several individuals singled-out for particular praise — including, Sandrine Caloz, Martin Donatsch, Patrick Thalheim, Tom Litwan, Madeleine Mercier, Jean-Denis Perrochet, and Georg Fromm — all of whom have been profiled in these pages.

I also noticed Mr. Reinhardt appears to walk-back previous praise for J.R. Germanier’s syrah-based «Cayas»:

” . . . not really among my favorites since they are more internationally styled with a lot of concentration and oak influence.”

This is a notable departure from previous commentary which praised «Cayas» as one of the best syrahs in Switzerland with consistent scores of 90-94 points across more than ten vintages. Oh well, that brings him more in line with my thinking about that wine.

Lastly, I should mention a couple of other house-keeping issues that may otherwise lead to confusion among some readers.

In his review of the wonderful wines of Le Petit Château and Fabrice Simonnet he mentions that the 2018 Freiburger (reviewed here) is made from chasselas. Of course, it’s made from freiburger (aka freisamer, a German cross of sylvaner and pinot gris) a little seen specialty grape with its own cahiers des charges and lots of respect from a few precious growers in Vully.

Likewise, he misidentifies the «Curzilles» from Domaine La Colombe as chasselas when it’s really a co-planted cuvée in which chasselas plays a part. The point of the wine is to express a specific terroir, a la Jean-Michel Deiss, and not to showcase a variety.

Small details, I know, and not meant to detract from the otherwise great reporting of Mr. Reinhardt.

Hop Suisse! Hopp Schwiiz! Forza Svizzera!

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