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I like Swiss Wines – Cos That’s How I Roll (part 2 – familiar grapes)


I hope you enjoyed reading about the rarities in part 1; of course there is far more to Swiss wine than just those – Petite Arvine and Chasselas are must-tries from the country as well. For those who would like a more familiar introduction to Swiss wines, here is a trio made from international grapes:

Gialdi Vini Terre Alte Bianco 2015 (12.5%, £19.68 at Alpine Wines)


Nearly every wine drinker has heard of Merlot, even if they are like my mate Jim who has an acute aversion to it (the unconfirmed rumour is that he can taste Merlot in a wine even if it’s at homoeopathically minute proportions). Perhaps only wine scholars will know Merlot Blanc, a cross of Merlot (Noir) and Folle Blanche, the Cognac grape also known as Gros Plant in the western reaches of the Loire.

However, this is a white Merlot wine but it is not Merlot Blanc – it’s a white wine made from black grapes, a Blanc de Noirs. Of course Blancs de Noirs are common in Champagne and other sparkling wines, but they are rarely seen as still wines.

It’s dry yet fruity, with so much texture – it’s very quaffable but would stand up to some sturdy food if required.  Don’t serve ice cold – allow the flavours to express themselves.

PS Jim really liked this as well!

Cicero Alto Reben AOC Graubünden Pinot Noir 2012 (13.5%, £26.40 at Alpine Wines)


At last, a well-known grape in a well-known format!  Not having tasted Swiss Pinot Noir for a long time, I would most liken this to a good German Spätburgunder – a little more power than a lot of Burgundy equivalents, but still fresh and savoury.  It shows lots of red (strawberry & raspberry) and black (blackberry & blackcurrant) fruit – it’s in no way austere, but neither is it shouty.

I recently attended a Pinot Noir masterclass in Dublin and I would rate this as better than both the French and New Zealand representatives – it definitely stands up against Burgundy of the same or higher price.

Syrah de Sion, Maître de Chais, Réserve Spéciale 2009 (14.5%, 2011 is £29.88 at Alpine Wines)


Now I knew that Syrah can perform well in a diverse range of climates, but for some reason I still didn’t expect to find it grown in Switzerland.  This is one of the more full-bodied and opulent Syrahs produced in the country – at 14.5% it’s not going to be a shrinking violet!  – to show how far Swiss Syrah can go.

Only 900 bottles of this 2009 were made (we were tasting bottle 0645).  It’s full of spice and berries, but smooth.  There’s still some oak apparent but it’s well integrated.  The tannins are soft and supple.  Some might find it a touch over-extracted but I thought it downright delicious!  

For comparison, to me it brings to mind Saint-Joseph (northern Rhône) or Hawke’s Bay (North Island of NZ) – two excellent Syrah producing areas.

8 thoughts on “I like Swiss Wines – Cos That’s How I Roll (part 2 – familiar grapes)”

  1. Frank, there’s surprisingly excellent Syrah, especially in Switzerland’s “Valais” region, perhaps only coincidentally on the slopes of the upper part of the Rhone, as it flows through its upper reaches towards Lac Léman. It’s a region with some great autochthonous varieties (Humagne Rouge and Cornalin for red, Petite Arvine and Amigne for white, among others). But the Syrah there can be classic, cool climate, but with all that reflected sunshine, not as cool as you might think.

  2. I meant to add that Graubünden Pinot can also be classic. One tiny producer, Daniel and Marta Gentenbein, make world class Pinot, acknowledged by many to rank alongside top Burgundy. They are horribly expensive now, and sold on allocation. Not had one for a year or two, sadly. But other producers in this eastern region worth following too.

  3. I really enjoyed both of your posts on Swiss wines. Recently tried two myself: Fendant (white) and Humagne Rouge (red,obviously). The red was quite unlike anything I’ve had. Curious as to whether you’ve had it?

      1. Cool! I am very interested to see what your impressions were. I wrote about Swiss wines during the Tour de France and, on the whole, found the whites a bit more interesting than the reds.

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