I promised an update on Swiss wines, so here it is—a taster, before my full report is written up. In short, I was very impressed by most of the wines I tasted on my trip. The organization hosting the tastes and cellar visits was a consortium of the 25 leading producers, including members from the French, Italian and German influenced bits of Switzerland. Chasselas, a Swiss white grape, does pretty well and is a point-of-difference for the Swiss wine industry. It tends to fatness and low acidity, though – I think its lovely melony fruit is best off not going through full malolactic in most cases, to preserve as much acidity as possible. Top tips: Bovard and Domaine de la Colombe. Petite Arvine is another local grape that does pretty well and makes some interesting wines (it’s a component in the lovely white made by Lichten). Bovard’s Buxus Sauvignon Blanc is a brilliant wine, showing that it’s not just local varieties that can do well here; Cruchon’s Pinot Blanc is also excellent.
But Switzerland isn’t just about white wines: it also makes some stonking reds. Syrah was the big surprise: we tasted some fantastic examples, bursting with fresh, vibrant red fruits. Look out for Chamoson in particular, and also Coyas. Cornalin is a wonderful Swiss red variety that very nearly became extinct a few years back, but is now making some lovely, fresh, vivid wines – look out for the example from Château Lichten, but all the Cornalins I tried were good. Merlot is a strong performer: Domaine du Crochet 2003 from Hammel was probably the best red I tried over the two days. Some of the Ticino (region in Italian part) Merlots were impressive, also, although there was a tendency to use a touch too much oak. Hammels’ reds show that Bordeaux blends have a real future in Switzerland. Then there’s not forgetting Pinot Noir, which does particularly well in the German end of Switzerland. Kesselring makes three lovely examples. We also tasted some brilliant Pinots in barrel from Cruchon. This is just for starters. Lots more good wines to talk about. And some stunning vineyards (the picture shows some views of Dezaley, on Lac Leman).