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wines of Switzerland

by Tom Cannavan, 02/06

Switzerland is one of the world's least known, but very high quality fine wine nations. I was very impressed overall with this, the second large selection of wines I've tasted from Nick's extensive portfolio. Not only did the wines live up to the challenge of "being different," but they were also well made and delicious. If you are tired of the usual grape varieties and styles, and particularly if you are fond of crisp, punchy and powerful white wines, then this selection is full of interest. All wines supplied by Nick Dobson Wines.

White

Luc Mermoud (Switzerland) Chasselas de Lully 2004
I rated the 2002 of this Geneva wine as "very good", whilst confessing that I had little experience with Chasselas grape variety. The 2004 is a pale yellow/green, with a gentle but attractive perfume of white fruits, especially crisp apples, and a hint of straw. On the palate there is some nice concentration here, with a little bite of apple and pear skin flavour, a juicy character, and a vivid, dry acidity. This would be a great food wine in the same ballpark as a crisply-styled Sancerre or good quality Muscadet. Very good/very good indeed. £7.95.

Association Viticole Ollon (Switzerland) Antagnes "Les Hameaux" 2004
"Les Hameaux" indicates a wine from the vineyards of a particular village in the Chablais region, in this case those on a specific soil of gravel and pebbles, on a base of gypsum. This wine is made from a selected parcel of Chasselas grapes. It has a light gold colour and a lovely floral scented, very fresh pear-drop nose, with a drying, nutty undertone. On the palate there is good intensity, with a minerality, and flinty, Pouilly-fumé like notes. The fruit is really quite punchy and powerful, with hints of fig and dried apricot, and a fine mineral acidity too. Not fantastically long, but very flavoursome and delicious nonetheless. Very good indeed. £11.95

Association Vinicole de Corseaux (Switzerland) Le Chardonneret 2004
Not Chardonnay, but 100% Chasselas from the AOC Chardonne in the Vaud region, on the northern shore of Lake Geneva. This screwcapped wine has a gentle pétillance, and a summery nose of straw, white flowers and crisp pear fruit, with just a hint of honey. On the palate there's a real punch of vivacious, crunchy fruit; it is quite perfumed as you drink it, with hints of raspberry and floral lightness, but a citrussy core and dry apple acidity leave the finish mouth-watering and gently spicy. Very good indeed. £12.95.


Simon Maye & Fils (Switzerland) "Trémazières" 2004
Trémazières is a 100% Fendant wine from the AOC Chamoson in the Valais, a valley of the river Rhône and one of Switzerland's most renowned regions. This wine is also bottled with a little pétillant spritz, and the aromas are light and floral, with little white blossom notes and hints of cool, Asian pear and star fruit. On the palate there is a big rush of clean, crisp, vibrant and mineral-salted herbal fruit, with plenty of citrus and underripe melon giving a clean, tantalising quality to the fruit. There's a hint of something more ripe and pineapply about this, but the mouth-watering apple and grapefruit acidity takes hold again into the finish, leaving this lip smacking and moreish. Very good indeed/excellent. £12.95

Association Vinicole Corseaux (Switzerland) St Saphorin Grand Cru 2004
Another Chasselas, grown on sandy soils on a limestone base in the commune of Chexbres in Lavaux. It has a creamy, gently smoky and honeyed nose, with white fruits and herbal hints. On the palate it is nicely fruity, with quite a bold orange or mandarin tang to the fruit. A drying, pear and green apple acidity balances the finish, in a finely tuned wine. Very good/very good indeed. £13.95

St. Jodern-Kellerei (Switzerland) Heida Visperterminen 2003
Heida is, according to Jancis Robinson's Guide to Wine Grapes, the Swiss name for Traminer, and a rare speciality of Visperterminen in the Valais. The nose on this light golden coloured wine has a lovely floral and spice-tinged character, brimming with juicy, vibrant lychee and tropical fruits, with a nutty undertone. On the palate it has real spice and punch, with piercing fruity intensity, where a tropical, luscious sweetness is balanced and tempered by striking lime acidity. A very powerful wine (15% alcohol), and excellent. £14.95


Domaine Louis Bovard (Switzerland) Épesses "Terre à Boire" 2003
The grape for this wine is Chasselas once again, this time aged on its lees by a winemaker with a very good reputation. There is a distinctive honeyed note to this wine, with a creamy richness and a subtle but quite unctuous fruit quality, reminiscent of nectarine or ripe melon. On the palate it has just a suggestion of sweetness at first, but then a quite austere dryness of white fruits (hard pear, melon and apple) and taut mineral acidity leaves the long finish very dry and clean. A touch of spice adds a nuance of warmth, but this is a fairly uncompromising and structured wine in the end. Very good indeed, possibly excellent with cellaring. £16.00

Henri Badoux (Switzerland) AOC Aigle les Murailles 2004
This wine from the Chablais region comes from one of the most respected Swiss producers, Henri Badoux. It is from a vineyard on some of the steepest valley slopes, where a microclimate ensures a long ripening season. Composed once again of Chasselas, it has a pale straw/gold colour and a subtle, mineral and gunflint nose, though hints of apricot and richer, peachy fruit peek through. On the palate this is concentrated and rich, with lots of grippy fruit skin qualities: like orange peel and pear skins, and a lovely hint of honey before taut mineral acidity powers through. Excellent. £16.50

F&D Giroud (Switzerland) Humagne Blanche 2004
From the Valais, this wine is made from Humagne Blanche, the oldest known white grape originating in the Valais. Because it is a grape rich in iron - apparently with three times the level found in most others - it was historically prized for its medicinal qualities. Post Phylloxera the variety neared extinction, and today there are only around seven hectares planted, making it one of the world's rarest wine grapes. It has a deep, golden colour and wonderfully full and warm nose of honey, fig and quince, with a certain waxiness and fat, lemony fruit. On the palate it is broad and richly textured, with a mealy quality and powerful rounded apricot and melon flavours that are dry and quite smoky. There is a deal of mineral, slightly salty acidity, and this wine has a long finish of minerals and dry, nutty fruit. Seems bigger than its 12.8% alcohol, and very interesting indeed, though seems a little expensive for what it actually delivers. Very good indeed. £17.50

Domaine Louis Bovard (Switzerland) Médinette Grand Cru 2003
From the top Dézaley region in Lavaux, this Chasselas comes from steeply terraced vineyards on the shores of lake Geneva, with very low yields. It is late harvested (into November) and has a definite off-dry character. It has a really attractive nose, with blossom and honeysuckle over spices and intense apple and pear fruit. On the palate the intensity continues, and though the back label says it spends 10 months in oak, I can only guess these are large, old barrels, as there is no discernable oak character. Instead, spicy, vibrant fruit, with a leesy and skin-contact richness and grapefruit pith bitterness floods the mouth. The reminds me very much of some prime Austrian Grüner-Veltliners I have tasted, and it wouldn't surprise me if it aged rather well. Plenty of acidity, quite full a body, and a powerful, spicy finish complete the picture of an excellent wine. £18.95.

Rosé

Les Perrières (Switzerland) Oeil-de-Perdrix de Peissy 2004
"Partridge's eye" refers to the pale pink/coppery tone of this rosé, made from Pinot Noir by Bernard Rochaix in the Geneva canton. The nose has a nice, delicate sweet red fruit and earthy notes, with a hint of rosehip and bracken. On the palate this has a very nice balance between quite sweet, mouthfilling fruit and a crisp, well-defined acidity. Very easy to drink and one of the nicer rosés I've had recently. Very good indeed. £9.95.

Red

St. Jodern-Kellerei (Switzerland) Dôle Visperterminen 2003
This is a blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay from the Valais, which has an interesting and attractive nose that combines an element of sweet, baked plum-pie fruit and a charcoally, schisty edge. It has a dark, quite deep character on the nose, that keeps the fruity sweetness tempered by an earthier tone. On the palate it is lighter and has a more up-front fruitiness, with plenty of creamy raspberry, a hint of richer berry fruits and a lovely medium-bodied, fresh format. A tangy touch of cherry acidity and crisp tannin adding a bit of drama to the long, fruity finish. Nicely composed, easy to drink and very good indeed. £12.95

Domaine du Paradis (Switzerland) Pont des Soupirs Rouge 2003
This Geneva red is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Gamaret, the Swiss crossing of Gamay and Reichensteiner. It has a very solid crimson colour, and a fine, sweet, toasty nose of nicely seasoned oak, plummy black fruit and little hints of raspberry and cherry, even floral brightness. Very attractive. On the palate that cedar and sandalwood oak adds a plush depth, and this medium-bodied wine carries through with black fruit flavours that coat the palate. There is perhaps just a touch of hollowness on the mid-palate, where the oak and the fruit don't quite meld together, but then fine, chocolaty tannins and crisp acidity add a refreshing length to the finish. This may well get even better given another year or two in bottle, but is very good indeed/excellent. £17.50.

Gregor Kuonen (Switzerland) Pinot Noir "Grand Maître" 2003
This wine is expensive at a shade under £25, but then these are 35-year-old vines, tiny yields and a very limited production of a wine that Nick Dobson says is "possibly the best Swiss red I have ever tasted". From the Valais region, this Pinot Noir is aged in French oak barriques. It has quite a dense ruby colour, and an aromatic nose of cranberry and delicate raspberry, sweet floral nuances and an edge of damp earth and woodsmoke. The oak is very much in the background, with a ripe but elegant fruit quality to the fore. On the palate there is a chewiness and density to this wine, partly from a broad, juicy raft of berry fruit, and partly from its full, textured mouthfeel. The warming toast and spice of the barriques fills in, and the mid-palate stays dense and fruity. A slightly liquoricy, peppery note adds tension and structure along with grippy tannins, in an impressive Pinot Noir in a full, rich style. Very good indeed/excellent. £24.95