Switzerland is a small wine country, producing about 60% of what New Zealand produces. To give you another idea: that’s about the same as Beaujolais, or 10% less than Alsace and 1/40 of what the whole of France produces, however it’s also 40 times what the UK produces. Nearly 90% of Swiss wine comes from 6 main areas (in order of volume of production): Valais; Vaud; Geneva; Ticino; Neuchatel & 3 Lakes; Zurich.


The Vaud alone is about a quarter of Swiss production. Geographically the area covers most of the North bank of Lac Leman and the final, north-flowing, leg of the Rhone before it joins the lake. The Vaud is split into 3 main Areas: La Côte – the Western half of Lac Leman’s North Bank up to Lausanne, Lavaux – the Eastern half; and Chablais – from the corner of the lake onto the Rhone spur. There are some smaller satellite areas in the North.

Vaud as a whole is dominated by Chasselas, it accounts for over 70% of Lavaux wine and half of Chablais, but La Côte is much more varied. Chasselas is under 40% here and nearly 30% are red plantings of Pinot Noir, Gamay and its crossings: Gamaret and Garanoir. Plus 30% of the plantings use “other grapes”: Viognier, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Doral, Sauvignon Blanc and Gewruz; Cabernet Franc and Merlot are also grown.  La Côte makes about half of all Vaud wines.

Most Vaud wine is made by small growers and co-ops. The wines here are from CIDIS – a La Côte wide co-op comprising 400 growers, who only farm an average of one hectare each.

Nyon Chasselas Vielle Vignes 2012 – 12%
Chasselas is a very old grape perhaps originating near Lac Leman but deriving its name from the Village near Macon, whence it was distributed in France. There are 2.4 kHa still in Fr – mainly for juice, though the grape finds its way into Edelwicker in Alsace. There are 4kHa in Switzerland: 58% in Vaud and  25% in Valais, where it’s usually called Fendant. It’s called Gutedel in German speaking Switzerland, Germany and Austria and there is 1.1kHa in Baden, Germany. It is widely planted (>1kHa each) in Romanian & Hungary – but mostly for the table, not wine.
This wine is made from selected vines in  Nyon AOC, in La Côte, on the shores of Lake Geneva. Vines are over 20 years old and yield is limited. The wine is very pale, with rich melon and apricot perfume. Palate has quite a lot of acidity, then some richer notes and then a citrus-pith bitterness at the finish. Interesting, but the components are a little separate and clumsy.

La Côte Doral 2012 – 13%
Doral is a Chasselas x Chardonnay, bred to be more aromatic than Chasselas and with more citrus and apricot than Chardonnay. There are only 27ha in Switzerland – 75% of it in Vaud.
This wine comes from various vine plots between Morges and Nyon. The wine is a bit darker than the previous, but the nose is quieter with hints of pear and citrus. The same things and sharp apricots on the palate, with hints of green herbs. Much more subtle, integrated and refreshing than the Chasselas, good length with the flavours and acidity persisting – quite a satisfying wine.

“Les Chaumes” Œil-de-Perdrix (Rosé) 2012  – 13%
Made from Pinot Noir selections located in La Côte, along Lake Geneva.
A lovely blush, salmon colour. The nose is quite restrained with some fruit (raspberry or wild strawberry), a hint of herbs and a lighter perfumed aroma. After an initial hint of sweetness the palate is clean with quite a long line of fruit and acidity to the finish. Lovely for a summer afternoon….

Cabernet Franc Réserve Inspiration 2011  AOC La Côte –   13%
Mid garnet colour with a bright rim. Raspberry and herby notes but not the tell-tale green pepper. A dry palate with slightly herby tannins, which are quite warm and supple and persistent, a warm peppery finish too. Quite well balanced and interesting with a darker note than many Cab Franc, maybe due to the small amount (<15%) of Garanoir blended in?

The Nyon Chasselas, the "Gamar'one" and the Pinot Gris VT.

The Nyon Chasselas, the “Gamar’one” and the Pinot Gris VT.

Gamaret – Garanoir 2011  AOC La Côte – 13.5%
Gamaret is a Gamay x Reichensteiner (1990) with deep colour, spice, power and tannin. There are 380 ha in Switzerland (in Vaud, Geneve and Valais) and small amounts in Beaujolais and Italy.    Garanoir is a sibling (GxR) usually blended with Gamay or Gamaret, it is fruitier and lighter than Garamet. There are 203ha in Switzerland (mostly Vaud) and a little in Shwaben in Germany.
Dark purple, with cherry and darker berry nose. Lighter palate (some were reminded of Mondeuse – the Savoie grape) but forward, fruity and simple, quaffing wine at the lighter end of the Beaujolais spectrum.

“Gamar’one” Inspiration 2011   AOC La Côte– 14.5%
Made from selected vineyards in the district of Morges, hand picked and dried (in the Amarone style) to make a concentrated wine.
Very dark garnet. A “oily” nose with aromas of nuts (walnuts?), kirsch and prunes. Concentrated, and a little sweet giving an impression of “thickness” and pastille fruit (prune and black fruit), warm with a slightly bitter (walnut again?) Amarone-ish finish. Interesting but at a UK price of around £34  one would expect more finesse from a real Amarone!

“St. Martin” Pinot Gris Vendange Tardive 2011 AOC La Côte –  12%
Harvesting takes place at St. Martin’s day, November 11,  from  selected vines at Chigny & Givrins.
Yellowish colour but pale for a VT. Passion fruit and hints of orange marmalade (botrytis). Palate is a little soft and lacking in acidity. Peach and dried (and rehydrated) apricot flavours. Slightly sappy and therefore the wine is in the relatively simple (Muscat based?) corner of sweet wines rather than those with more supporting acidity (Chenin particularly, with that Passion fruit note). Interesting though.