Monday, March 30, 2015

Iconic Swiss Varietals Tasting with Paolo Basso: Brivio Vini Platinum 2011 Mendrisio AOC Tessin

Paolo Basso has consistently been one of the world's best sommeliers and has two World's Best Sommelier awards (2010 and 2013) as official recognition of that standing. I had never had the opportunity to meet him, or attend one of his tastings, so I jumped at the opportunity to register for an event titled Iconic Swiss Varietals Tasting that he would be hosting at the DWWC 2014 Conference in Montreux, Switzerland. This post continues my reporting on that event with coverage of the Brivio Vini Platinum 2011 AOC Tessin. Previous entries in this series are listed at the end of this post.

Ticino -- called Tessin in both French and German -- is a 2,813-km² (1,086 square-mile) Swiss canton located on the southern slopes of the central Alps. Italian-speaking (an artifact of rule by the Dukes of Milan until its conquest by the Swiss Confederation in the 15th Century), except for the German-speaking municipality of Bosco/Gurin, the canton is almost completely surrounded by Italy.


The canton is divided into two geographic regions by the dividing line of the Monte Ceneri Pass: Sopraceneri, encompassing the Ticino and Maggia Valleys; and Sottoceneri, the region around Lake Lugano. The Sopraceneri lands were formed by glaciers and streams and, as a result, are more mountainous and rife with terminal moraines and alluvial cones and is acidic. The soils are rather stony with a full complement of silt and sand. The Sottoceneri soils are limestone and deep, rich clays.

Ticino's climate has been described as "modified Mediterranean." The Alps in general, acts as a barrier such that the climate in the northern parts of Switzerland are different from the south. Ticino, situated as it is to the south of the Alps, receives some Mediterranean air from time to time and can reach temperatures of 21.3℃ in the summer with an average annual temperature of 11.7℃. Ticino's 2100-2286 hours of sunshine per year is the highest in Switzerland. The warm, moisture-laden air from the Mediterranean deposits a lot of its mass as it rises to soar over the Alps, leaving Ticino with the highest annual rainfall (1750 mm) in all of Switzerland. The Froehm is a warm wind which blows over the Alps from south to north but, on occasion, reverses itself and blows from north to south, impacting Ticino. Ticino is prone to fierce storms and the risk of hailstones has prompted grape-growers to install anti-hailstone nets.

Platinum is produced by Brivio Vini SA which operates as a negociant with production facilities in Mendrisio. Brivio Vini buys fruit from 400 farmers operating on 100 ha of land in the region. The table directly below shows DOC labels produced by this winery; 10 of the 13 wines are 100% Merlot or has Merlot as part of the blend. The figure below the table illustrates the Brivio winemaking process.

                                         Distribution of Brivio Wines by Type and DOC
# *
Pinot Noir
Sauv Blanc
Cab Franc
Cab Sauv
Bianco del Ticino


Bianco di Merlot






Rosato di Merlot




Rosso di Ticino



*One except stated otherwise

Platinum is a 100% Merlot wine. Brivio works with a low-yield clone to realize yields of 50 hl/ha. The grapes for this wine are dried for three weeks in thermo-ventilated boxes before alcoholic fermentation begins (This practice increases the solids concentration in the grape prior to alcoholic fermentation but may do so at the expense of freshness.). The grapes are then crushed and fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks. After fermentation and MLF, the wine is aged for 20 months in new French oak barriques. Frequent racking during this period allows bottling without fining or filtration. The producer does allow that this practice may result in some slight visible sedimentation.

As tasted, the wine presented balsamic notes, vanilla, and baking spices on the nose. Overripe fruit with a dusky nature. Fruity, black cherry, black currant, and ivy leaf (Paolo sees the latter as a typical aroma of the region). On the palate black fruits. Rich and concentrated. Full-bodied. Young tannins providing some astringency. Long, rich finish.


Previous Iconic Swiss Varietals Tasting posts:

Leyvraz St-Saphorin Grand Cru Les Blassinges 2012
St-Jodern Kellerei Visperterminen Veritas Heida 2012 AOC Valais
Jean-René Germanier Vétroz Cayas Syrah du Valais Réserve 2009
Clos de Tsampéhro Flanthey Tsampéhro Rouge Edition I 2011 AOC Valais

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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