Wine serendipity in Switzerland

Great wines, great friends

By Panos Kakaviatos for

17 August 2018

While pouring a glass of the Heida Visperterminen, Michel Falck, owner and director of the fine wine shop Au Millésime in Strasbourg, France, says that Swiss wines count among “Les meilleurs du monde“.

Now, Heida Visperterminen may sound like some Swiss medicine, but it actually refers to (arguably) Europe’s highest vineyard: at 1,150 meters high, vineyards in the Valaisian town of Visperterminen include the “Heida Visperterminen”, a white wine, pressed from an old species of grape that bears the same name. The AOC origin is Wallis.

Michel Falck explaining what makes Heida Visperterminen special: lunch at Miroir d’Argentine

The wine we tried – from the Saint Jodern Kellerei – reached 14% alcohol, given the warm microclimate partially created by a warm southern wind. And it was darn good: giving off notes of aniseed and wet stone. The palate had a fine, yet rich texture. At just over 20 Swiss Francs, I plan to buy a few bottles.

While the grape may be the same as Traminer or Savagnin, the Swiss versions taste “so different from the ones in the Jura,” says Robin Kick MW. “Even the ones made reductively: the Swiss ones have more personality and flesh, though I like the ones in the Jura too, but not quite as much,” she adds.

And you have to admire the history: The Celts cultivated wine in Visperterminen, as shown by archaeological finds. Today about 42 hectares of vines are cultivated in the Heida Village. Three wine producers, including Saint Jodern Kellerei, offer tastings. A vineyard trail informs visitors about the wine, vine species and cultivation. Also very interesting, as Robin Kick MW pointed out in a Facebook post, is that “Heida is the same as Traminer or Savagnin and it is also called Païen, the French name.” Read More

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Croatia (wine) Journal, Part I

Wine under the Cavtat sun

13 August 2018

By Panos Kakaviatos for

Cavtat sunsets bring out your inner Monet: you feel compelled to take variations of the similar sun setting theme on your smart phone. Cavtat – pronounced “tsavtat” – is perfect for a summer break. Clean, friendly and not too bon marché, with prices high enough to dissuade cheapskate tourists of the more uncouth sort.

My trip proved perfect to beat the 2018 Euro summer heat. The canicule of Strasbourg, France in late July and early August for example (as in other parts of Europe) saw temperatures reach the upper 90s Fahrenheit. Of course southern parts of Spain and Portugal had it much worse, with temperatures approaching 115.

The clear blue Adriatic Sea? That was an antidote. Read More


Champagne: harvest news

Confident in its export markets, Champagne growers and houses agree to set the available yield at 10,800 kg/ha

Report from Comité Champagne 

25 July 2018

Expecting stable sales in 2018 and a slight growth over the next few years (especially in the export markets, which now account for more than 50% of the total shipments), Champagne growers and houses agreed today to set the available yield at 10,800 kg/ha, the same level as in 2017. This volume fills the needs of the Champagne producers and maintains a balanced overall stock level.

This harvest is expected to be generous in volume and, to date, of good quality. It should also make it possible to reconstitute the Champagne reserve, widely used in the last two years.

An exceptional wine-growing year, with the harvest beginning in August. Read More

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Bordeaux 2017 futures campaign: “underwhelming” and “spoiled”

With the permission of Liv-Ex

8 July 2018

Dear readers, I am enjoying some fresh summer mountain air in the Swiss Alps as I post this text, coming from the informed people at Liv-Ex. But before you read their rather dour assessment of the #Bdx17 futures campaign, just a few words I have heard from Bordeaux. One negociant who has been in the business for many years has judged the campaign as “pourri” or spoiled. “Nearly 75% of the offerings have not been sold,” the negociant added. Basically, prices should have been lower – closer to 2014 opening prices. Indeed, that makes loads of sense, and Liv-Ex says much the same in their summary, so read on…

Sales underwhelm

After a relatively successful 2016 campaign, the UK’s leading merchants’ En Primeur sales halved to £45 million this year, while the average sterling release price of the 2017s dropped 11.8% from 2016. Volumes sold fell by 60%. The sales balance was focused heavily toward ‘winners’ such as First Growths and popularbrands, while the majority struggled and will weigh heavily on the market for years. On the whole there was a reluctance to pay close to 2015 prices for wines considered to be around or below 2014 in quality. Read More

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Alsace: Put dryness levels on the front label

And the grape names, too

By Panos Kakaviatos for

30 June 2018

This may seem a bit like a rant, but I have been living the better part of the last 20 years in Alsace. And I like Alsatian wine very much. The theme of this post? Info! And with Alsace, customers want (more of) it.

The setting was the biennial Millésimes d’Alsace earlier this month.

Wine writers from all over the world trekked to Colmar to taste wines from the famous Alsace wine-growing region. Over lunch a few of us got to enjoy a lovely 2014 Riesling. We knew it was going to be dry, or at least we guessed as much. And it was: wonderfully so. The producer? Domaine Allimant-Laugner. The appellation? Alsace Grand Cru. And location? Praelatenberg. Sound German? Of course it does. The bottle looks that way, too. But more on that later, because most readers here are familiar with Alsace bottle shapes and (often) German sounding place names.

You may notice a new Alsace Wine logo in the hyperlink to the Praelatenberg Alsace Grand Cru that I included in the above paragraph. Indeed, this year’s event marked the unveiling of a new logo for the wines of Alsace in a promotional film worthy of a glitzy Champagne marketing campaign. Interspersed with high definition visuals of gorgeous vineyard slopes – accentuating Alsace’s multiple terroirs – the film featured some really nifty drone-based images. I took a short clip from that unveiling in the video below.

The new logo is appealing and simple: that is to say, an effective marketing tool. And the website sums up very nicely information about the wines, including pithy summaries for the grand cru sites. Sure, you may have not yet heard of Praelatenberg but just a visit to the website and you get a fine quote: “The panoramic viewpoints from the majestic Haut-Koenigsbourg castle overlook the sharp slopes of Praelatenberg. This rich terroir produces generous and structured wines founded on a base of intense minerality.”

And yet some confusion stubbornly hampers the image of Alsace wine. Read More

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