With only 5% of Swiss wine exported, it is hardly surprising that most people do not know much about Swiss wine. The wines come from all three regions of Switzerland - Italian Ticino in the south where Merlot makes up 90% of all plantings, the eastern German half and the western French part. Steep vineyards climbing up south facing mountain slopes, including the UNESCO protected vineyards of Lavaux and lakeside vineyards.
Although ‘rosé’ is a new trend in Switzerland during the last fifteen years, oeil de perdrix is recorded as having been made in Neuchâtel since at least the mid 19th century. This style of wine is thought to have come from the Champagne region where the cool climate produced wines which ranged from pale to deep pink depending on vintage and grapes and included blanc de noirs. Today, oeil de perdrix is usually made with Pinot Noir and can be any shade. In principle there is no difference between oeil de perdrix and a classic Pinot Noir rosé.
My first time tasting Swiss wine was, like many people, during après ski sessions with volumes of gorgeously rich melting cheese. The wines were crisp, clean, neutral whites made with Fendant (aka Chasselas). Today, over half their production is red wine, and as a spin-off from all the red grapes (especially Pinot Noir, Merlot and Gamay) planted, an increasing amount of rosé is being made, largely, it would appear, to be drunk fresh and spritzy during the summer months.
As I was in Switzerland for the weekend, judging (largely) Swiss Pinot Noir reds and rosés, I asked the organisers of the Mondial des Pinots and Swiss Wine Awards to help me out with some prize winning rosé.
My first rose came from Ticino, the southern Italian Canton, where 90% of the plantings are Merlot, which is used for blanc de noir, rosé and red wines. The Osé Merlot rosé from Tamborini Vini was a full-bodied ripe rosé, with 13.5% alcohol. Full of luscious plums, redcurrants and cherries, held together by a long, fine, restrained mineral acidity and a slight fresh prickle of CO². A particularly fine Merlot rosé.
My second rosé was a Pinot Noir oeil de perdrix from Cave du Château de Valeyres from the Côtes de l’Orbe AOP, between Neuchâtel and Lake Geneva. Ripe cherry fruit with soft silky acidity, supple juicy fruit and a touch of almonds on the finish.
My final wine was a second Pinot Noir from August Pünter, made using the saignée method, from near Zurich in the German speaking part of Switzerland. I expected this to be much more structured considering it was saignée, but instead it had the most amazing cherry blossom aromas - which reminded me of Japanese Cherry Blossom. Beautifully fruity and floral, the lightest in alcohol with 12.5% and so so pretty.
All three wines, from the 2019 vintage, were medal winners in the Swiss Wine Awards, were so fruity that I enjoyed drinking them just on their own. Lovely opulence of ripe fruit, which in Switzerland is perfect with their array of wind-dried meats, fresh water fish and vegetables.
I tasted the Oeil de Perdrix 2019 made from Domaine de Montmollin from Neuchâtel which is a light and crisp wine. Its pale amber in colour, red supple cherries are integrated into its bright acidity that comes out in the forefront making this a versatile wine. The pale colour, high intense aromatics accompanied by a delicate style point to a gentle press along with some free run juice. This is a family run business now in its 4th generation run by sibling duo, Rachel and Benoit Montmollin. They have followed Swiss certified organic viticulture for over 12 years and now aiming to get their biodynamic seal. A prominent and respectable producer of high quality wines from the region of Neuchâtel that lies west of Switzerland. Pairing these wines with crunchy grains with mild spices is a brilliant way to enjoy these wines. Try them with quinoa vegetable salad with roasted chickpeas for an extra crunch or a couscous with halloumi and carrots. The crisp acidity and crunchy fruits match very well with the base of grains and fresh as well as roasted vegetables.
Another award-winning producer that has received high points from wine critics, Jancis Robinson and Robert Parker is Domaine des Muses from Valais. I tasted their Rosé de Gamay from the 2017 vintage. For a 3 year old wine, it is remarkably fresh, pale salmon in colour and intensely fruity with strawberry and plum aromas and some tropical hints of melon, highly concentrated aromatics and some off dry flavour probably hovering around 5g/l of sugar but still considered dry as its balanced with fresh and uplifting acidity. Robert Taramaracaz a talented winemaker and son of the proprietor has returned after studying wine making and working in Dijon, Burgundy and New Zealand, he and his team aims to make low intervention wines that respect terroir and show purity in expression. The wine has some medium bodied richness that makes it very food savvy wine. An excellent pairing with baked potato, cauliflower au gratin and baked Dijon salmon.
My last but not the least Swiss rosé is the Rosé de Merlot from Cave de la Côte produced from fruits in the Vaud region. A respectable cooperative with an established cellar master Rodrigo Benato returned to Switzerland after growing up and working in Chile. California and Bordeaux bringing in nuances from each of the regions to showcase in his wines of Switzerland. Intensely perfumed with bright and ripe strawberry, raspberries notes on the forefront, the mid palate acquires softly the weight of black cherries from where smokey and spiced classic nuances of Merlot complexity starts to display fluently. There is fullness of flavours and evident body in the weight that ends with a persistent length and crisp finish. A gastronomic wine that can be a great company to barbequed tofu, sausages and char-grilled aubergines. An excellent wine that needs food to fulfil its appeal!
The above three wines that I tasted are available from Alpine Wines in the UK although the supply is very much dependent on availability.