A glorious and educational tasting of Swiss wines

Bern, Switzerland

Tasted November 14, 2014 by Eric with 802 views

Introduction

Before I arrived in Bern, a local CellarTracker user had noticed my wife's name and sent me an email wondering if we might be related since we had the same last name. :-)

He followed up with an especially gracious invitation to organize a tasting of Swiss wines. Now there are tastings and there are tastings. This one was quite comprehensive with 24 wines poured before we even thought about dinner. Every flight was accompanied by detailed descriptions of the wine varieties, and everything was served over a great placemat map showing all of the Swiss wine regions.

The whole tasting was exceptionally educational and really put a number of the varieties in a better perspective for me.

Flight 1 - Chasselas (3 notes)

I have been poured a lot of Chasselas/Fendant over the past 6 months, but this flight was very instructive for me in terms of understanding the core personality of this variety. As someone who likes very high acid whites, I continue to find myself wanting more cut and acidity. However, for the first time I really started to appreciate just how savory and salty Chasselas is.

White
2012 Dubois et fils Chasselas Pierre Vieille Switzerland, Vaud, Lavaux, St. Saphorin
This starts out somewhat mute aromatically with an almost medicinal hint of pine sap. The palate is fairly heavy, bordering on oily, very SALTY and mineral.
2 people found this helpful Comment
White
2011 Château de Châtagneréaz Chasselas 1er Grand Cru Switzerland, Vaud, La Côte, Mont-sur-Rolle
Mmm, the aromatics here are more bright and floral with an overlay of smokey ash. The palate is slightly more fresh than the St. Saphorin example tasted previously, a touch of fruitiness, but this is still quite savory.
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White
2012 Dubois et fils Chasselas Hautcrêt Marsens Switzerland, Vaud, Lavaux, Dézaley
A faint nose, a bit leesy, with a whiff of peach. The palate is spicy, savory, a little CO2. It reminds me of a Gruner Veltliner with a spicy, peppery personality.
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Flight 2 - Riesling-Sylvaner (Müller-Thurgau) (3 notes)

Another educational flight, this time focusing on the somewhat misnamed Riesling-Sylvaner (which is actually a cross between Riesling and Madeleine Royale). These have the acidity to be interesting, but none of them were wholly successful in my opinion. Perhaps this is a bit more of an acquired taste that I need to focus on some more?

White
2011 Christian und Ursula Marugg-Bleuler Riesling Sylvaner Switzerland, Eastern Switzerland, Bündner Herrschaft, Fläsch
A distinct note of green apple peel on the nose is followed by a bracing palate entry. Nice, zingy and loaded with energy moving to an almost creamy midpalate and notes of peach on the finish. This is pleasant and peppery.
1 person found this helpful Comment
White
2012 Lutz Weinbau Riesling Sylvaner Appenzeller Landsgmendwy Switzerland, Eastern Switzerland, Appenzell
Quite a bit darker than other wines in the flight, this shows honey and a waxy note on the nose and even a hint of almond. Wow, despite the somewhat oxidative aromatics, this is even more bracing, verging on enamel stripping as this attacks the teeth with very aggressive acidity. A Hint of Mandarine orange comes out and then falls off a fairly flat finish.
1 person found this helpful Comment
White
2013 Jakob Meier Müller-Thurgau Eschenzer Entenstall Switzerland, Eastern Switzerland, Thurgau, Berlingen
A zingy nose with a touch of SO2, green notes and some flint. Hmm, this has the acid to be interesting, but it is also quite full and spicy with an apparent touch of residual sugar. The finish is not so harmonious.
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Flight 3 - Petite Arvine (2 notes)

Petite Arvine seems to be the Swiss white variety that is most in the wheelhouse of what I like to drink, nicely balancing minerality, acidity and freshness.

White
2012 Defayes & Crettenand Petite Arvine Switzerland, Valais, Leytron
An intriguing nose of lime zest and white pepper. Mmm, great acidity on the palate with tangerine, a little smoky, moving to a savory finish. This is RIGHT in my wheelhouse of flavor and acid profiles that appeal to me.
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White
2013 Domaine Cornulus Petite Arvine Octoglaive Switzerland, Valais, Sierre
There is a distinct Rhubarb note (credit to Yves) on the nose. A big, juicy, full palate with a slight impression of sweetness. Peach, citrus, and pepper moving to a savory finish. This is really quite an explosive wine. It is perhaps a touch sweet, but there is a lot of good stuff going on.
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Flight 4 - Completer and Heida (2 notes)

Here we try two indigenous whites. Of the two examples tasted, the Completer was especially interesting and made me want to try more Completer. I have had some other examples of Heida that I enjoyed more than this one, but perhaps the issue was tasting it alongside the much more lithe and fresh Completer?

White
2010 Weingut Sprecher von Bernegg Completer Switzerland, Eastern Switzerland, Bündner Herrschaft, Jenins
A very ripe nose with a hint of what seems to be botrytis, moving to flint. I love the palate entry. Vigorous, energetic and clean, cutting, quite tart and "green" in personality. Clean, focused and just really nice on the finish. This is a solid and quite interesting wine.
2 people found this helpful Comments (4)
White
2012 St. Jodern Kellerei Heida Visperterminen Switzerland, Valais, Visperterminen
Despite being grown at 1150 meters, this wine is an impressively full 13.5%. A flinty and smoky nose moves to a very full palate. Flabby, spicy, peppery, too sweet and showing some overt notes of alcohol.
1 person found this helpful Comment

Flight 5 - Humagne Blanche and Amigne (2 notes)

Now we finished out the whites with two more rarities from the Valais. This Humagne Blanche left me flat, but the Amigne was fascinating!

White
2012 Defayes & Crettenand Humagne Blanc Switzerland, Valais, Leytron
At first I seemed to smell a touch of oak, more from a neutral barrel, but then I lost it as the nose shut down completely. The palate is VERY dry, almost reminiscent of Chateauneuf-du-Pape blanc. Flat and not so interesting for me. It is peppery, but it lacks energy/acid.
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White
2009 Cave du Vieux-Moulin (Romain Papilloud) Amigne Grand Cru Vétroz Switzerland, Valais, Vétroz
A crazy nose with a gin/juniper note. Peach. White pepper. Wow, the palate is profoundly full and spicy. I get some apricot, but there is a lot more going on with the complex and dynamic flavor profile. Really interesting dry Amigne example.
1 person found this helpful Comment

Flight 6 - Humagne Rouge (2 notes)

Lighter than the Cornalin to follow (and boy have I found some confusion in various web references that seem to say that Cornalin and Humagne Rouge are synonymous). At least with the four examples to follow, they seemed to have rather distinct structure and personality.

Red
2005 Jean-Camille Juilland-Favre Humagne Rouge Switzerland, Valais, Chamoson
Stemmy and viney. Smoky, wild, dark, black and brooding. I like the nose. The palate is a touch flat, leathery, with dark fruit, quite resolved. Maybe it is the age, but it lacks a bit of grip.
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Red
2008 Defayes & Crettenand Humagne Rouge Switzerland, Valais, Leytron
Tar and pine. Is this oak? Mmm, dark, chewy, gamey and a touch medicinal. This finishes quite juicy, seemingly lacking in tannins. However, the structure is there and sneaks up with a faintly drying personality.
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Flight 7 - Cornalin (2 notes)

Mmm, these were chewy, bordering on rustic, and both really interesting. I need to do some more research into Cornalin...

Red
2008 Marie-Thérèse Chappaz Grain Cornalin Switzerland, Valais, Fully
Sort of a dark Bojo aspect. Stems, leather and blackberry. Intriguing with a barnyard and even urinal aspect. (Yes, I know that can't sound appealing, but this was more an expression of the rustic, animal and wild personality of this.) The palate is chewy with nice tannins, nice acid, ample grip, energy and a certain medicinal note. Where this shines especially is on the really vibrant finish. A unique, fun, chewy and challenging wine.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2009 Domaine Cornulus Cornalin Antica Switzerland, Valais
Dark, dark, saturated in color. The nose reminds me of some Walla Walla wines with an odd combination of green stems and candied berries. Pepper and hints of tobacco. The palate is really grippy and savory, wild, juicy, sweet, spicy, dark and syrupy. Overall, this example was just a touch too syrupy and concentrated for my taste.
1 person found this helpful Comment

Flight 8 - Merlot (2 notes)

This flight showed the highs and lows of Ticino Merlot. I quite enjoy Merlot, especially some Italian examples and most from the right bank of Bordeaux. So the Ticino Merlot's have some fascination for me. Many of them are even more herbal than the Italian examples, but there is typically enough red fruit and freshness to make them unique, intriguing and quite interesting. In this flight the first wine was a darker and more concentrated example (that I loved), whereas the second one was just too green and weedy even for me.

Red
2009 Agriloro S.A. Merlot Riserva Tenimento dell'Ör Switzerland, Ticino
Herbs, coffee, berries, and powdered sugar. I am sure that sounds odd, but to me that screams Merlot. Awesome nose! The palate is loaded with black fruit and leather, nice grip. Awesome wine and a great expression of Merlot. I really enjoyed this one.
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Red
2009 Rovio Ronco SA Merlot Switzerland, Ticino, Lugano
Mmm, cocoa and smoke on an appealing and stereotypically herbal nose. Hmm, this is VERY herbal. The palate is loaded with green herbal aspects. I tend to like that in moderation, but for me it was too much on this wine. There was a nice, light red fruit aspect as well, but overall this was a tough example for me.
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Flight 9 - Pinot Noir (1) (3 notes)

The final two flights were served blind, and there was one "ringer/pirate" in each flight to try and pick out. For anyone who has not had better examples of Swiss Pinot, you are missing out. There are some very majestic ones to be had!

Red
2011 Weingut Rings Spätburgunder Germany, Pfalz
Quite light in color. Deep, sultry and dusky on the nose. The palate is astringent and harsh, no Pinot silk. Oaky and dry. My least favorite of the flight.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2011 Steve Bettschen Pinot Noir Phusis 5.9 Switzerland, Vaud, Côtes de l'Orbe
Bright berry with candied stems on the nose. Very harmonious with bright notes of pomegranate. Great energy here. Finishes out with some spicy green peppercorn. My favorite of the flight.
Red
2011 Weingut Wolfer Pinot Noir Grand Vin Switzerland, Eastern Switzerland, Thurgau, Weinfelden
Similar to the #2 wine in the flight with a "candied stems" aspect, lots of lots of stems. Whole cluster fermentation? Lots of licorice, concentrated, sweet and sappy. There is a lot of like here, but I find it a bit sweet. My second favorite of the flight.
1 person found this helpful Comment

Flight 10 - Pinot Noir (2) (3 notes)

This was a really glorious flight. (And it should be noted that the Esmonin improved significantly over the rest of the evening, although in relation to the two amazing Swiss examples with was downright clumsy in comparison.)

Red
2007 Mattmann Pinot Noir Switzerland, Eastern Switzerland, Churer Rheintal
Pine and an oddly chemical note of "bug spray". Also medicinal with omnipresent stems. An ethereal palate, nice acid, it dances, vibrant. Loaded with Pinot Twang. Loved it. My favorite of the flight.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2006 Sylvie Esmonin (Michel et Fille) Gevrey-Chambertin Cuvée Vieilles Vignes France, Burgundy, Côte de Nuits, Gevrey-Chambertin
Dusky and concentrated, Kistler-esque by comparison. This was pretty clearly the ringer. Black pepper and cola. Oaked and tannic. Somewhat heavy. It is interesting with a nice sweet and sour aspect, but it comes off as quite heavy handed and overdone relative to some of the other more elegant wines.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2006 Gantenbein Pinot Noir Switzerland, Eastern Switzerland, Bündner Herrschaft, Fläsch
Smoky, toasty and stemmy. Oaked but beautifully. Concentrated and brooding, peppery and smoky. A rather serious wine. My second favorite of the flight.
1 person found this helpful Comment

Flight 11 - Dinner and Dessert (6 notes)

And after all of those wines, we settled into a terrific meal (a smoky braised chicken over unreal polenta) and then some great Swiss cheese and sweets. A number of wines came out, and I didn't bother to capture many impressions. However below is what little I was able to capture.

Red
1999 Gantenbein Pinot Noir Switzerland, Eastern Switzerland, Bündner Herrschaft, Fläsch
We went through two bottles of this one. The first was DOA, but the second was pretty glorious (especially following the 2006 earlier in the evening). Still with a long way to go, this has turned the corner and gained a softness and subtlety that wasn't really on display in its younger sibling.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2008 Weingut Sprecher von Bernegg Pinot Noir Vom Pfaffen / Calander Switzerland, Eastern Switzerland, Bündner Herrschaft, Jenins
I don't have any descriptors written down, but given that I made a significant point to write down the name of the wine, I know I enjoyed it.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2010 Rhys Pinot Noir Home Vineyard USA, California, San Francisco Bay
I brought this as a ringer, and I think it showed well enough. If anything, it was much more at home with the other wines than the Esmonin ringer had been.
1 person found this helpful Comment
White - Sweet/Dessert
2008 Steve Bettschen Petite Arvine Phusis 2.1 mi-flétrie Switzerland, Valais, Charrat
Mmm, no real notes here, but throwing some dessert richness on top of the great acidity of Petite Arvine is a terrific formula. I took a lot of pictures of this bottle, so I clearly didn't want to forget it.
1 person found this helpful Comment
White - Sweet/Dessert
2008 Domaine du Mont d'Or Johannisberg 1er Décembre Switzerland, Valais, Sion
No notes here.
1 person found this helpful Comment
White - Sweet/Dessert
2005 Domaine Cornulus Marsanne Octoglaive Hermitage flétri Switzerland, Valais
Mmm, an interesting vin de paille style wine.
1 person found this helpful Comment

Closing

Many thanks for a glorious tasting and very warm hospitality!

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