Mondeuse: The Ghost of Grapes Past

The landscape of Swiss vineyards offered a more complicated puzzle in 1880 than it does today. Not only did viticulture suffer a massive decline during the decades of phylloxera infestation, it endured a mass migration from north to south and an alarming loss of diversity. First, some statistics. Zürich’s area under vine fell from 5,279 […]

Plantscher, Blanchier, Bordeaux Blanc, Gros Bourgogne: Who’s Your Daddy?

The ancient Swiss variety, Plantscher (aka Blanchier, Gros Bourgogne or Bordeaux Blanc), is perhaps best known for having nothing to do with Burgundy or Bordeaux. In fact, it’s an off-spring of the Hungarian grape Furmint and its likely place of origin is Central Europe. What makes the Plantscher story particularly vexing (and ironic) is that […]

Domaine La Colombe “Curzilles” Vertical — 2016-2010

Silvio Jermann’s iconic Vintage Tunina may not have been the first field blend I ever tasted, but it was the first that made me aware of the term. I remember ordering a bottle in 1977 at the high-concept, Milan-inspired trattoria, Ciao, on Union Street in San Francisco. I think it was the first vintage—1975—but it […]

Neuchâtel Non Filtré: Let Yourself Be Disturbed

Every year on the third Wednesday in January, at five-o’clock sharp, there’s a party in the charming Swiss city of Neuchâtel. It’s not a raucous affair with loud music or wild dancing; instead, it’s a dignified civic event with some costume-clad celebrants and some excellent young wine to drink. Good wine, however, is in the […]

A Wine of Note: Domaine Mermetus

2017 Altesse, Une Touche de Fantaisie, Domaine Mermetus (Lavaux, Vaud) Like a lot of orphan grapes, Altesse suffers from some persistent, seemingly unshakeable origin stories. But thanks to modern genetic sleuthing, we can say for sure it’s not from Cyprus—which means it never hitchhiked with Count Amadeus VI on his way home from a 14th-century […]

Clos des Gondettes (Satigny, Geneva)

Look at a current political map of Europe and you might notice the outline of a limp handshake (choose your own piece of anatomy) where western Switzerland meets France. It looks limp for a reason. As a one time exclave—entirely surrounded by France and the old Duchy of Savoy—Geneva existed as an on-again, off-again city-state […]

A Day at the Cooperative–Provins Valais

It’s not sexy, in fact, it’s one of those boring statistics that puts most people to sleep, even if it is true: more than half of all wine made in Italy, France and Spain combined is made in cooperatives. That’s a lot of wine but much of it is dreck destined for distillation, flex-tanks, or […]