Saturday 27 April 2013

Switzerland vs Savoie

A recent trip to the French Alps (Savoie) gave us a pretext for comparing some Swiss wines from Lavinia, Geneva with the local French ones to be found in supermarkets at our ski resort. Shopping at Lavinia Geneve had always been a joy and we had discovered lovely Swiss wines there in the past.

This time the results were surprising. Savoie won more or less hands down. The Swiss wine were on this occasion nothing like expected. For example we bought 3 different Gamays and each was more souped-up than the last (OK one was 'Tardif').

A Diolinoir on the expensive side was both more interesting and better then the Gamays but not something we would rush to buy again. The back story of Diolinoir is also interesting. It is a cross between something called Rouge de Diolly and Pinot Noir. Rouge de Diolly is the same as a variety called Robin Noir from the Ardeche. It was probably introduced inadvertantly into the grape collection of a Dr. Henry Wouilloud who found and propagated all sorts of local vines, ancient and otherwise.

Syrah and Pinot Noir were acceptable but again lacking the lightness and refreshing quality we always thought part and parcel of the Swissness of Swiss wine.

The whites were more pleasurable with the Scheurebe and Savagnin mildly aromatic and the Pinot Blanc pleasantly luscious.

 The Fendant (Chasselas) was perhaps predictably successful although it was 'entry level' rather than anything special.

Here was the order from Lavinia. Note the Swiss idiosyncracy of the 0.70L bottle!

Stephane Gros Gamay Tardif 2010 Rouge0,75L     
Domaine des Curiades Authentique Gamay 2010 Rouge 0,75L
Fabienne Cottagnoud Cave des Tilleuls Gamay Vetroz 2009 Rouge 0,75L
Freres Philippoz Diolinoir 2009 Rouge 0,75L
Domaine des Curiades Pinot Noir sans SO2 2009 Rouge 0,75L
Domaine Dugerdil Syrah 2010 Rouge 0,75L
Domaine du Centaure Scheurebe 2011 Blanc 0,70L
Domaine des Curiades Savagnin 2007 Blanc 0,75L
Philippe Darioli Pinot Blanc 2009 Blanc 0,75L
Fendant 2010 Denis Mercier Blanc 0,75L

None of these wines was under 13%

In our local French supermakets there were even more wines from our favourite Savoie producer Domaine Grisard than the previous year including

Mondeuse Blanche
Cuvee Loyse (Chardonnay, Jacquère, Mondeuse Blanche)
Rose de Mondeuse

From other Savoyard producers, there was also an Aligote as good as any we have tasted from Burgundy, a Persan from St. Germain which gave little hint of how this variety can soar in the hands of the Grisards,

 fresh Chignin-Bergerons, Jacqueres and Rousettes (we didn't buy Apremont or Crepy this time). There were some fun sparling wines from the region too.

We found the Mondeuse Blanche the very day when Jancis Robinson had eulogised this variety in the Financial Times. It is extremely rare and rather expensive and only about 5 hectares of it exist. We had tried an example from another producer already a year ago without being bowled over so with Jancis's enthusiasm we gave it another go. This time it showed up better in the Grisard version but we
obviously still have to work at it. This variety is important as the parent and ancestor of  Syrah and the ancestor or progeny of Mondeuse Noire and even Viognier. It turned up in Grisard's Cuvee Loyse, a very attractive blend.

As in our previous visit the Rose de Mondeuse of Grisard was a tremendous hit.

All the Savoyard wines were low in alcohol and were characterised by lightness, freshness and pleasant acidity. We expected the same from the Swiss wines and had the impression from those we tried that Swiss wine is going the same way as so many other areas (see our recent moan about Bardolino).

Back home we had the honour to receive a present from 'Wine Grapes' for having found a variety not included in the first edition. There had been a kind of light-hearted competition to find such omissions for inclusion in the second edition with a free bottle of wine as a prize for doing so. Robinson, Harding and Vouillamoz were on pretty safe ground but a handful of players managed to scrape up some fantastically obscure varieties used in commercial wine production and we at Slotovino can attest that these prizes swiftly arrived at successful participants' front doors.

In our case we found missing from 'Wine Grapes' was one well known to the three authors but which had unaccountably been left out; the Greek red grape Voudomato from Santorini. This has already featured in this blog and is available in sevaral countries including the UK and France. The Voudomato vines of Santorini are claimed to be the oldest in existance at over 500 years old. This figure is not contested. And Voudomato wine? It is almost undrinkable such is its viscosity and concentration. We believe it may best be consumed drizzled over vanilla ice cream.

Our prize was a Petite Arvine from Switzerland chosen by Dr. Vouillamoz from Bonvin, a leading Swiss producer as the name suggests. We are prone to mixing varieties up and we may have confused Petite Arvine with Amigne in the past. We are not great fans of Amigne so it was a revelation to taste Petite Arvine - another grape altogether. According to Vouillamoz this version was vinified traditionally dry; he says "in recent years the trend for some producers has been to leave a considerable amount of residual sugar to attract young consumers it singlehandedly". It restored our faith in Swiss wine.

As with other regions prone to a beefing-up process, there seem still to be those who refuse to lose sight of the country's unique character.

So there is hope that if we choose more carefully next year, Switzerland may equalise with Savoie. At least its diversity seems not to have been lost. Watch this space.