Monday, November 2, 2015

DWCC15 Masterclass -- Swiss Wine Booster Shot

Last year's DWCC final-day, after-lunch sessions were the antithesis of final-day, post-lunch sessions which are normally characterized by somnambulance and eminently forgettable content. Not so last year at DWCC. It began at the Grand Tasting with Jancis Robinson transparently tasting and discovering the elements of the wine along with the audience. Her halting steps of discovery in the Chasselas tasting were bolstered by incredibly sophisticated input from obviously knowledgeable members of the audience. This was a blast. We had to be dragged out of there -- late -- to attend the penultimate sessions.

Mine was a tasting of rare Swiss varietals with the aforementioned Dr. Jose Vouillamoz who had shared the previous stage with Jancis Robinson. The session started late so he ran into the the time allotted for my final session, a tasting of Iconic Swiss Varietals with Paolo Basso, multiple winner of the Best Sommelier in the World title. Both of these sessions were eye-popping and palate-pleasing.

Given the high note on which last year's session ended, it is no surprise that the organizers opted to employ a Swiss Wine masterclass as one of the first sessions of this year's conference to both stimulate the juices and provide a sense of continuity to returning attendees. The sense of continuity was further confirmed by having this session led by Dr. Vouillamoz.

Dr. Vouillamoz began by making a few remarks on last year's event and then launched into his presentation. He began with a few key facts regarding the Swiss and wine, facts which are summarized in the graphic below.

He then introduced the wines we would be tasting to include vintage, producers, variety, and region of origin. That information is summarized below.

The tasting portion of the Masterclass centered around eight wines -- four reds and four whites -- with the whites being the first group tasted. The first two whites were both Chasselas from the Vaud region. The leftmost one in the picture above is the 2012 Calamin Grand Cru from Jean-Francois Neyroud Fonjallaz. The wine had a lemony-lime character, white fruit, and gunflint on the nose. On the palate white fruit, peppery spice, a broad-based citrus-rind acidity, and a long white fruit finish with some residual bitterness. The second Chasselas -- 2014 Domaine La Colombe Bayel -- was markedly different with more floral notes and brighter acidity, the latter reminiscent of an Assyrtiko. Greater intensity and lacking the bitterness of the Calamin. A white peach finish. Dr. Vouillamoz felt that the second wine was also rounder in the mouth and well balanced.

The third white was a 2013 Sauvignon Blanc from Cave de Geneve/Phillippe Chevrier in Geneva. According to Dr. Vouillamoz, there are 157 ha of sauvignon Blanc planted in Switzerland with the majority in Geneva but some can also be found in Valais. This was a flush, fat Sauvigmnon Blanc, grassy and rich with hay and ripe tropical fruits. Good levels of acidity but appendage-like. Salinity and a metallic note on the palate. Long finish.

The final white was a 2013 Adrian and Diego Mathier Petite Arvin de Molignon from the Valais region. Arvin is a "typical" variety in Valais (166 ha planted) and does not grow well outside of its native zone. On the nose, grapefruit, rhubarb, and melon. Full-bodied with high acidity and a phenolic note on the palate. A drying, bitter finish.

As was the case for the whites, the first two reds were the same variety -- Pinot Noir in this case -- but they differed in origin -- Neuchatel and Three Lakes versus Eastern Switzerland. The 2012 Domaine de La Maison Caree Pinot Noir Auvernier presented strawberries, stemminess, smoke, and a tomato character on the nose. Austere Pinot fruit on the palate along with spice and an earthiness. Dr. Vouillamoz noted the tannins as young but smooth. The second Pinot Noir -- 2012 Wein and Gemuse Umbricht Pinot Noir Enora -- showed ripe strawberries paired with barrel notes. A bigger, rounder mouthfeel than for the first Pinot with a long, smoky, earthy finish. Our fearless leader saw it as full-bodied and probably late-harvested with the evident sweetness a combination of late-harvesting and barrel effects.

There are about 12 ha of Bondola planted in Switzerland with Ticino being the variety's region of choice. The Bondola entrant in the tasting was a 2012 Azienda Mondo Bondola del Nonu Mario. This wine showed intense red fruit on the nose along with herbs, blood, medicine, and charcoal. On the palate high acidity, rustic tannins, and bitterness. A bitter finish.

The final wine was a Cornalin, of which 122 ha are planted in Switzerland. The 2014 Cave Maurice Zufferey Cornalin de Sierre "Rouge du Pays" presented sweet red fruit and a richness on the nose. Full round mouthfeel along with a silky character. Not lacking in character and personality. Balanced and persistent. Cherry and bitterness on the finish.


This session accomplished its goals. The precise, deliberate tasting style of Dr. Voulliamoz, the wealth of information that he shared with us, and the quality of the wines presented, put me in a very positive frame of mind re what I would get out of the conference This was launchpad realized.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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