Swiss Grapes: Sauvignon Soyhières

There’s a slight claustrophobic ends-of-the-earth vibe to the Jurassian village of Soyhières (Pop. 433). It has the plain vanilla look of 1950’s Swiss functionality with a lingering undercurrent of separatism and a patois (Vâdais) all its own. The village itself offers none of the postcard images one expects from rural Switzerland but the seasonal pastures and […]

Swiss Grapes — The Twins: Gamaret & Garanoir

Whenever I think of Gamaret, I invariably think of its less assertive twin, Garanoir. And whenever my mind thinks in pairs like that, it invariably settles on the Silva sisters, Sheila and Sonja. The dreaded sisters were among my most formidable childhood antagonists and the first set of twins to enter my consciousness as classmates […]

Swiss Grapes — Grosse Arvine: One Man’s Mission

If you’ve ever entertained thoughts of resuscitating a barely breathing grape variety you may want to give Olivier Pittet a call. He’s a fine young man and a terrific winemaker who, in his spare time, lays it all on the line for a little known cultivar that may never be commercially viable. He will no […]

Swiss Grapes — 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 […]

Swiss Grapes — An Homage to Chasselas (and Indirectly to Roast Chicken)

Hang around Switzerland long enough and you’ll eventually grapple with the chasselas riddle: Why is this famously ordinary table grape — and the famously neutral wine that comes from it — given star billing in Swiss vineyards and held in such high regard by its proponents? After living with chasselas for a while, I can offer […]

Swiss Grapes — Salvagnin or Servagnin: Which Is It?

There’s almost never a thought given to the rare benefits of the Black Death pandemic of the Middle Ages but the existence of Servagnin de Morges is one of them. The story begins more than 600 years ago in France with one of the most consequential edicts in wine history: (The Duke of Burgundy) Philip the […]

Swiss Grapes — Plant Robert: A Tasting at the Cully Bazar

Even though it’s back from the brink, the grape known as Plant Robert remains endangered and little known. Absent a timely intervention it would have been lost decades ago to urban sprawl — in 1966 the last parcel in existence was condemned to make way for the A9 autoroute. Today its eight hectares are spread […]

Swiss Grapes — Le Salon de la Petite Arvine 2016

A recent tasting at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Geneva brought together sixteen of the twenty-three members of the marketing collective Fully Grand Cru—devoted champions and enthusiastic purveyors of the native alpine specialty, petite arvine. On offer was the new 2015 vintage and a masterclass featuring a few older vintages in a range of styles. […]