October 4, 2013

My thoughts before a recent trip to Geneva: cold weather, dull and expensive wines made from weird grape varieties.

I stayed with a friend and felt, on behalf of my dear blog readers, duty bound to pay her local vineyard a visit.  Les Freres Dutruy is in the village of Founex in the Vaud Canton, I was rewarded handsomely for my efforts. The winemaker himself was attending to a parcel of his vines that had been damaged after a recent hailstorm, not unlike many French vineyards that have suffered a similar fate this summer. His father was on hand in the cave for the tasting and took us through their range of wines from white through rosé to red then sweet. I had expected some indigenous grape varieties so I wasn’t surprised to find that the first white from Domaine de La Doye was made from Chasselas. I feared the worst but as I swilled the glass I could smell really fresh fruity aromas and a scent of lime leaves; very inviting. It tasted incredibly fresh with good acidity and was in fact so delicious that I bought a bottle to let my students try as it is not something easily picked up in KL. In fact not much Swiss wine is exported – they often can’t fulfill local demand.

Next on the list was a Sauvignon Blanc and then a rosé and a red both of which are made from good old Pinot Noir. I had not expected to see either grape variety although when I logically thought about it the generally cooler climate and the combination of plentiful summer sunshine with cooler nights is perfect for both. The wines were not exactly cheap but at least they were very good quality.

Finally, a very different style of sweet wine, “Les Romaines Gewürztraminer Passerillé”. To make this wine the grapes are left on the vine as late as possible so that they are almost shrivelled before harvesting, then the ripe sun-filled grapes are semi-dried in a warm dry area (often a loft) before going through the normal winemaking procedures. Yet another treat in store for my students; the lengths I go to for them!

My friend was looking for a local traditional method sparkling wine that she could serve at drinks parties etc so later that evening we put the “Les Romaines Brut Rosé” to the test. It is made from a blend including one of the classic champagne grapes, Pinot Noir, it was very elegant with small and persistent bubbles, it was an attractive light salmon colour, smelt of delicious red currants and raspberries with a little toast and some brioche thrown into the mix. She had found the fizz she wanted and we had passed a pleasant few hours on her sunny terrace looking over at the Alps. Well done Switzerland, how wrong could I have been?

Since returning from this trip I have learned that the famous terraced vineyards in Lavaux (also in the Vaud) that I had seen on one of our outings are in fact a UNESCO world heritage site because they offer ” Exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition. Outstanding example of a landscape which illustrates significant stages in human history and of human interaction with its environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change”.  They certainly were spectacular was you can see from this pic.

We tried the Chasselas and the Gewurztraminer on today’s Advanced course on Alsace, Germany & Switzerland. We all agreed that it was certainly worth the suitcase space I had devoted to them. So nice to be appreciated.

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