Wine & Travel

Snooth User: Rfrainey

Swiss wine- I know nothing!

Posted by Rfrainey, Nov 4, 2009.

I will be hiking through Switzerland in August, wine is always available in the towns of course and generally in the refugios. What should I look for? Any unusual grapes?

Replies

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Reply by Greg Roberts, Nov 4, 2009.

Swiss Cellars is one of the top importers of Swiss wines to the US. Their site has good info on the regions and grapes varieties.

http://www.swisscellars.com/switzer...

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Reply by Rfrainey, Nov 4, 2009.

Thanks

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Reply by dmcker, Nov 4, 2009.

Vineyards in Switzerland are mostly quite small, even compared to Burgundy, and usually on south-facing hillsides. I suppose this makes it hard for anyone to gather together the production and marketing muscle to push exports, so it's rare to see many Swiss wines outside Switzerland and neighboring parts of France, Italy, Austria and Germany.

I'm most familiar with wines from the French part of Switzerland. Though not so 'unusual', you could do worse than to explore your way through many of the pinot noir in the Valais region (near Lac Leman, or Lake Geneva as we tend to call it in English, as the Rhone flows out of the lake towards France and greater grape glory). There are a number of rarer varietals in the area, as well, including chasselas and cornalin, petit arvine and humagne rouge, as well as gamay, syrah and pinot gris, also better known further down the river. Other cantons that produce large volumes of very drinkable wine are Geneva, Vaud and Neuchatel, though I haven't had a lot of those from around Lake Neuchatel. One assumes they go well with the local cheese... ;-)

There are some blends and hybrids that you're likely to run across, as well. Some of my first memories of wines in Switzerland were that everywhere I turned, it seemed, I always ran into Dole. This is a blend of pinot noir and gamay that used to be extremely common, and that I found hard to take seriously for anything but the easiest drinking. I hear that several makers have been tweaking the blend a bit lately, so next time in that neighborhood I intend to give it another try. Gamaret is a cross between gamay and reichensteiner, kind of in the same way that muller-thurgau in Germany crosses riesling and sylvaner. And though not a blend or cross-breed, cornalin is a red that's quite brawny for a Swiss wine, and it's often paired with game. I've only had it a couple of times, and plain to search some out next time I'm there, too.

Personally, I like the gamays and syrahs better in France but I do like the Swiss pinots, which are in a gentler style than those from the Cote d'Or (which, to put things in perspective, I like very much). The chasselas (fendant) and petit arvine whites are also interesting, and worth a try. Chasselas/fendant is a little more common but petit arvine has some remarkably crisp acidity. Slices through mushroomy fondues and potatoey raclettes like the proverbial knife through butter, though I like pinot noir with those, too.

In my experience the wines are usually labeled by varietal, though sometimes place names also appear. In addition to the varietals above you should be able to find chardonnay from Conthey, amigne from Vetroz, and riesling from Chamoson.

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Reply by dmcker, Nov 4, 2009.

Sorry, rereading this I think my description of the Rhone, Lac Leman, Vaud (and French part of the river) may be a little unclear. The upper reaches of the Rhone are southeast of Lac Leman, and this is where Vaud is. The river becomes Lac Leman near Montreaux, and after curving past Vevey and Lausanne, the lake then narrows and ends at Geneva, where it once again becomes the Rhone and flows south and west into France and Burgundy, Beaujolais, Cote Rotie, Hermitage, Chateauneuf du Pape, etc. territory.

So the Rhone river and lake passes through those areas where most of the wine is produced in Switzerland. This river sure seems in some ways to be the heart and soul of a huge part of European wine culture.

And Greg, Philip, Mark et al., it sure would be nice to be able to edit our posts, even after posting, as long, at least, as no one else had yet responded!

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Reply by gregt, Nov 4, 2009.

Or even if they had. The post need only reveal that it's been edited. Or not.


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Reply by dmcker, Nov 5, 2009.

Remembered a couple of things after posting the last. One was how many times I've had decent roses in Switzerland. Look for what's called Oeil-de-Perdrix (eye of the partridge, for the shade of pink of a partridge's eye as it is ... oh well, I'll stop there). Usually full bodied and often elegant with a dry nose and good acidity. I also remembered a slew of excellent food combinations, including rabbit with pinot noir, but particularly how much fun I had matching the cheeses and cheese sauces with the whites and reds (and roses)...

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Reply by dmcker, Nov 5, 2009.

Forgot to mention that the Oeil-de-Perdrix is usually made from pinot noir.

Editing capabilities, please!!!!

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Reply by Rfrainey, Nov 5, 2009.

thanks, I am sure wine will be available on our hike, but I'm not sure of the selection in swiss refugios. I know some in Italy have a great selection. We will pass through a few towns but Geneva and Zermatt will be the only good sized towns.

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Reply by dmcker, Nov 5, 2009.

So are you climbing any mountains, like the Matterhorn?

Regarding wine in Geneva, you'll be able to find all sorts from many parts of Europe and even the rest of the world, not just Switzerland. Lots of good eats, too.

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Reply by Karl Burkhardt, Apr 10, 2014.

@ DMCKER:

Okay. IMHO, the best red swiss wines are made from either Pinot Noir or Merlot.. Graped like Gamaret, Reichensteiner, Gamay one cen IMHO forget. Surely, one can find an exception (and I know exceptions, but they are confirmiing the rule).

Gamays (like e.g. Moulin-ä-Vent in the Beaujolais region) are tendentionally better than swiss Gamays.

Amigne is a authochton white wine grape variety,  only cultivated in the canton de Valais. It has an own , strong, special taste: some like it hot, others don't like it. The best Amigne is coming from the small village of Vétroz,.

P.S.: Riesling-Sylvaner is mostly an easygoing white wine, not complex, best drunk for an aperitif. It is cultivated mostly in the eastern part of Switzerland. I prefer Chasselas (in Germany, thiis is called Gutedel). The best Chasselas is coming from the Dézaley vineyard (at the lake of Geneva, near from Lausanne. A very bold vineyard, optimal for getting a lot of sunshine. Also the facr of beeing near from the lake giving additional light by the light reflected by the lakes surface.

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Reply by Karl Burkhardt, Apr 10, 2014.
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Reply by JenniferT, Apr 11, 2014.

Stunning picture!


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