Day 3: The Geneva Wine Tour

This post was written on Sunday November 2, the last day of the Digital Wine Communication Conference. 

The DWCC is over. As I write this I currently sit on the plan bound for Bordeaux. And I am already dreading the return to real life. This weekend was amazing. The conference was both a great learning experience and a great chance to network. The days were filled with great seminars, quality wine and interesting conversations. But today…  today was something special. And it wasn’t just the wine, although the wine was spectacular.

The morning didn’t seem promising. Problems during checkout at the hotel. A lack of sleep. And a general readiness to be done. Then something changed. I don’t know what it was. Maybe a generals sense of relief that we were all eventually bound for the airport, but whatever it was it helped make magic. In all honest today was my favorite day of the conference….by far.

On the bus bound for the greater Geneva area we passed beautify scenery. Vineyards just beginning to turn for fall. Clouds hovering just above the crystal blue waters of the lake. Picturesque, traditional looking Swiss chalets. But despite the amazing view the conversation was even better. New connections and new friends.

Our first visit was…to be honest again, not all that memorable. We were all tired and no one was that interested in touring yet another cellar. Or tasting all that much wine. But the winemaker was determined and opened bottle after bottle, a significant portion of the estate’s range of 25 wines.  The wines were good, but rather indistinct. Although the Aligote was a treat. From this visit, the moment that looms largest in my mind was a group photo among the vines …..Note to self: track down a copy of the photo.

But lunch…lunch was another matter altogether. Lunch was really where the magic happened. An amuse bouche and four spectacular courses, all strategically paired with Swiss wines. Small intimate tables that encouraged conversation. Outside of the excellent food, which was the best I had during the course of my trip, it was the best opportunity to get to know a group of strangers. Brazil. England. France. Portugal. Finland. With good wine flowing we all bonded over our mutual passion for good wine and good food.

Sadly some of the group was forced to leave us for the airport but the rest of us were able to make one last stop. Domaine Le Grand Clos. Celebrated as one of the rising starts of the Geneva wine scene. Personally I think it might be the slightly provocative art featured on the label. I seem to remember a rather bizarre and slightly inappropriate conversation about amputee groping at one point… Here also the tasting was extensive, at nine wines. Some were good. Some mediocre. But there were two that stood out in my mind:

  • A 2011 Cabernet, a blend of 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc. Completely unoaked this wine was surprisingly complex. A fruit bomb on the nose it was replete with slightly reduced red and black fruit. Spicy and balanced the refined palate lingered but was young. A good vintage in the Geneva AOC this wine will be perfect to drink in a few years.
  • A 5-vintage white wine aged in the Solera system. Composed of a late-harvest blend of Petit Marsanne, Petit Arvine and Sauvignon blanc from the 2002, 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2011 harvests, this wine was truly unique. Despite needing time to settle into the bottle, it was complex and subtle, smooth and rich.

Sadly by the time the tasting was finished the remainder of us were due at the airport. Where I managed to repack my bag with all my goodies, and M.’s, and find enough time to pick up a few goodies for Christmas. But sadly we are preparing for landing and real life beckons.

A Discovery of Swiss Wine

At the Digital Wine Communication Conference in Montreaux, Switzerlands I experienced my first taste of Swiss Wines. My first sip came from a glass of Chasselas, the iconic Swiss white wine that dominates the country’s production. To be perfectly honest I have to admit that I was not that impressed.

Then things changed….

Day two of the conference was busy with great seminars and amazing networking possibilities but the day was crowned with two spectacular tastings. The first, featuring six reds and six whites, was led by Jancis Robinson and her Wine Grapes co-author Dr. Jose Vouillamoz. (Pausing here for another geek out moment and a mental note. While note as widely known in the United States, Jancis Robinson is a prolific and influential personality in the world of wine. Now the mental note: start saving for a copy of the book.) The second was a free-style walk around featuring 40 different Swiss wine producers.

With 26 cantons and 4 official languages, Switzerland is a complicated country. But that is nothing compared to the Swiss wine world. With over 200 varietals, largely indigenous, understanding Swiss wines is an experience of epic proportions. Made all the more complicated by the fact that less than 2% of their total wine production are exported out of the country. And then further complicated by the canton/appellation of Vaud which received UNESCO World Heritage status in 2007. As such, this important wine region is severely limited in the changes they are allowed to make in their vineyards.

Yet the wine is well worth the effort.

Chasselas. Pinot Noir. Merlot. Petit Arvine. Syrah. Completor. The list of grapes is endless and the production styles just as diverse. Now I understand their appeal and have to wonder why more of these fabulous and intriguing wines are not available internationally.