Un­known ter­ri­tory to many. Robin Kick MW pro­files the four main grape va­ri­eties and picks 10 of her favourite wines

Decanter - - NEWS -

FEW WINE LOVERS are fully aware of the viti­cul­tural beauty of switzer­land. The coun­try of Alpine peaks, count­less lakes, vel­vet green pas­tures and even palm trees boasts some of the world’s most dra­matic and breath­tak­ing vine­yard vis­tas.

The coun­try’s wines are also little known: only about 1% of pro­duc­tion is ex­ported, as most bot­tles are con­sumed within swiss bor­ders. For an in­dus­try of mostly smaller do­maines with mod­est vol­umes, high labour and land costs, along with a thirsty do­mes­tic clien­tele, ex­port­ing has never been easy. But the swiss are proud of their own wines and rightly so; there are some beau­ti­ful and highly in­di­vid­ual styles to dis­cover, and not all will break or even frac­ture the bank.

Un­like other Euro­pean coun­tries, switzer­land is some­thing of a mini United Na­tions, be­ing home to Ger­man, French, ital­ian and Ro­man­sch-speak­ing na­tion­als.

But its most im­por­tant viti­cul­tural ar­eas lie in Suisse Ro­mande, Switzer­land’s French­s­peak­ing hub, where 80% of the coun­try’s wines are pro­duced in its largest wine re­gions.

This in­tri­cate and di­verse zone in­cludes the re­gions of Valais, Vaud and Geneva. Within it are plant­ings of some of Switzer­land’s most ex­cit­ing in­dige­nous va­ri­eties, in­clud­ing Chas­se­las, Heida/Païen and Petite Arvine. The vary­ing styles that can be pro­duced from these grapes cre­ate a cor­nu­copia of per­son­al­i­ties and ex­pe­ri­ences for wine lovers to en­joy.

Petite Arvine

The great­est in­dige­nous white grape of the Valais is Petite Arvine. Also sim­ply known as Arvine, in his­tor­i­cal texts it is men­tioned as far back as 1602. Although Petite Arvine can be found in other Swiss re­gions, an im­pres­sive 99.5% of the coun­try’s to­tal plant­ings are lo­cated in the Valais.

Petite Arvine’s wines hit a high note with pro­nounced acid­ity, a sleek mouth­feel with notes of peach, cit­rus fruits, fen­nel seed and a saline touch. Be­cause of these ap­peal­ing at­tributes, it has an in­creas­ingly pas­sion­ate fol­low­ing. But the Valais re­gion is nei­ther sim­ple nor small, so its wines can vary sig­nif­i­cantly in style.

A highly moun­tain­ous area, the Valais boasts a dra­matic range of vine­yard al­ti­tudes. Plant­ings along its val­ley floor range from 400m-500m above sea level, while its most el­e­vated and an­cient, 800-year-old south­fac­ing ter­races can go as high as 1,100m, some at gra­di­ents up to 70°, even steeper than Côte-Rôtie in France’s Rhône Val­ley.

Its most renowned vine­yards in­clude Combe d’En­fer in Fully, a steep and chis­elled moun­tain-hol­low, and the Petite Arvine grand cru vine­yard in Chamo­son. Both make taut, min­eral and con­cen­trated wines. Some ex­cep­tional ex­am­ples of these unique

Be­low: Château Mai­son Blanche, at Yvorne in Ch­ablais, si­t­u­ated in the Vaud re­gion

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