What a spectacular view! The steeply terraced vineyards in the Vaud wine region of Lavaux reach dizzying heights, whilst picturesque Lake Geneva glistens prettily down below. This region has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in recognition of its undeniable beauty. Here in the canton of Vaud, one grape variety rules the roost.
Chasselas. So say hello to a diverse range of subtle white wines. This grape variety is grown in other parts of Western Switzerland too, including Geneva, Valais and the Three Lakes Region. Given that the world of wine is known for its trends and fads, Chasselas is a bit of an underdog. These days, most people want to drink rich, full-bodied, aromatic wines. And this traditional grape variety from Western Switzerland just doesn’t fit the bill. But it still has plenty to offer. Smooth and elegant, the wines tend to have a more neutral aroma and taste combined with minerality. And they reflect the soil and region in which the grapes are grown to perfection. Chasselas crus from the most prestigious locations – think Dézaley or La Côte – can be stored for decades on end. Winegrowers in Western Switzerland are right to speak with such pride about ‘the greatest white wine variety in the world’.
Féchy Marchandes Domaine La Colombe, Féchy – 2020
The vineyard run by Raymond Pacot and his daughter Laura in La Côte between Lausanne and Nyon creates deliciously simple terroir wines using the Chasselas grape variety. This example comes from a plot above the village of Féchy, where 20 fruit trees are planted in amongst the vines. Ten months of cultivation with yeast produces a full-bodied, fresh and elegant white wine with plenty of tension.
CHF 21 | lacolombe.ch
Aigle Grand Cru du Clos du Crosex Grillé Domaine de la Pierre Latine, Yvorne – 2020
This exceptional wine from a top grower is full of character and typical of the variety, being spontaneously fermented with wild yeast and matured for a while in concrete containers. The grapes are grown in a walled vineyard known as a clos on the outskirts of Aigle. The result is a full-bodied, dry Chasselas with a complex bouquet, good acidity, subtle bitterness and salty aftertaste. Best enjoyed with a meal.
CHF 30 | pierre-latine.com
Dézaley La Médinette Domaine Bovard, Cully – 2020
The ‘Chasselas King’ is bursting with fruity flavours with notes of bread and almonds. The intensity, good structure and depth make this lingering dry white wine a treat for the taste buds. It has excellent ageing potential and is cultivated for ten months in a wooden container, with the yeast being constantly agitated. This is one of the finest and most prestigious wines in Switzerland.
CHF 32 | domainebovard.com
Chasselas Clos à l’Abbé Weingut Steiner-Krebs, Schernelz – 2021
This wine is grown on the shores of Lake Biel, proving that Vaud is not the only home of excellent Chasselas. This isolated vineyard sits 500 metres above sea level, just under the village of Schernelz. Thanks to the deep and loamy clay soil, this region’s top vineyard can press a white wine with real minerality. It is always dry, intense, complex, fresh and lingering with plenty of finesse. You get excellent value for money and a nice ageing potential of up to ten years.
CHF 17 | schernelz-village.ch
If you need proof that Chasselas wines can mature to perfection, look no further than the examples given by Mémoire des Vins Suisses. This organisation has set itself the mission of showcasing the often overlooked ageing potential and nobility of fine Swiss wines. There’s no need to worry about the international competition in that respect. One of the Chasselas wines with the best ageing potential is the Dézaley La Médinette from Domaine Bovard in Lavaux (see our Chasselas tips for more on this). In an outstanding vintage, it’s possible to hit 30 years and counting with this grape variety. But there are plenty of other fine wines worthy of a place on the Chasselas leader board alongside that particular icon of Swiss white wine. Just wait until you try these two other exceptional examples from Vaud along with an excellent wine grown in a prime location on the shores of Lake Biel, which highlights the incredible diversity of Chasselas. This white wine serves as proof that this grape variety can appeal to both the French and German side of Switzerland.
Words Peter Keller
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