Something has been weighing heavily on my stomach for months. Is it anger, incomprehension, rebellion, disappointment or even protest? I don't know, I only know the facts. In the Cologne Wine Forum - a circle of wine friends who got to know each other via Wein-Plus
and who have been meeting regularly since 1999 - Swiss wines were a topic in March. I was not there, even though I was in Cologne on business at the time. Maybe it's a good thing. I was spared the trouble and the task of a prophet that evening.
Wine round in the Cologne wine forum: Toscana versus Bordeaux. There one was still satisfied!
There is a back story to this. About eight years ago - the Cologne wine round was still in its infancy - I put together a Swiss round for the Cologne wine friends. Beautifully didactically structured - I thought - from the simple growth to the top, from wine region to wine region, from grape variety to grape variety. I brought the wines to Cologne, but was not present at the tasting then either.
Later, I saw the ratings: devastating. I can't remember the scores. I only remember that about half of the wines - according to the usual rating scheme - were almost undrinkable in the eyes of the Cologne wine friends, that is, around 11 to max. 14 points in the 20 rating. I protested loudly in the forum at that time.
Swiss presentation at the ProWein 2008
This episode did not diminish the sympathy for the wine round in Cologne and the friendship with many of its participants. I myself have repeatedly sat in this critical circle of wine lovers and tasted excellent wines. But, they don't have it with the Swiss. Not even eight years later.
Admittedly, the average scores are a bit higher this time. Between 12.5 and 15.5 points. Only five wines out of nineteen made it to something more: but the final stop was at 17 points. I rubbed my eyes: is that possible? Are Swiss wines really that bad?
The "star of Switzerland", Daniel Gantenbein, Pinot Noir
1996, 16 - 17 points. With this rating, he also made it to the top in Cologne. Well, I know this wine, since it comes from my cellar. Admittedly, it is not the best Gantenbein and as a Pinot Noir
at the age of 12 it is already well advanced in years. And yet: 17 would be the lowest rating for me.
One may argue about wine evaluations and ratings. The standards are - oh - so different. At best, they show the value of a wine within a tasting. Thumbs up, thumbs down! And that's where the thumbs went down with the Cologne wines. Absolute low point: NoPiNo 2006, Cicero Weinbau
, 11 - 13 points. Heavens, what happened there? A young vintner
, whom I have known for years, who was Swiss champion in tasting, who took over a run-down winery about three years ago and is already one of the top vintners in Switzerland today, is being dismissed like this?
But others are not doing any better: Cornalin du Valais
, 2001 from "Provins", 11 - 13.5 points. Cornalin
is an autochthonous speciality of the alpine region, especially from the Valais and Vaud. Admittedly: an idiosyncratic wine - fruity, but with a slightly rustic character. A suspicion suddenly arises in my mind. Are the wines rated so poorly because you don't know them? New taste experiences! And just not Rieslings, Pinots, Cabernets, Merlots .
But rather independent wines. Swiss wines. And in an international comparison (without blinkers) not so badly positioned. "Swiss red wines don't have to hide from Austrian ones" was the conclusion after a big comparison test with Austrian and Swiss jurors. The winners were two Austrians and two Swiss. Among them, of all wines, the "Schöpfiwingert" from the Georg Fromm winery, which the Cologne judges gave a remarkable 14.5 - 15.5
Well, competitions (or tastings) are there to compare, to choose the best, but also to get to know something new. And that's where many wine lovers seem to me to be overwhelmed. It is so easy to assume one's own experiences and tastes, it is so easy to adopt common prejudices, it is not so easy to get involved with the unknown.
Tracce di Sassi
An elderly lady also takes part in the weekly lunch in our settlement. She comes from a farming family in Austria, but has lived in Switzerland for almost all her life. We know it, we experience it week after week: what she doesn't know, she spurns. We have long since accepted this, at best smiling about it. Without this consistent attitude I would even miss something.
Shall I press the recent Cologne experience into the same mould? Amigne
de Vétroz, 2006, Jean-René Germanier
- also an autochthonous grape variety from the Valais - clearly shows the range: 12 - 15.5 points. Cologne's spirits have really diverged on this one. Just like the Merlot
del Ticino Riflessi d'Epoca, Guido Brivio
, anything but a common, so-called modern Merlot
, not only made for elegance and ease: but strongly structured, just still a real Merlot!
Swiss top wines - as so often - misjudged!
I give up, I capitulate. Swiss wines are at least in the Cologne round - I have already had similar experiences in other wine rounds - unfamiliar, suspicious, or even violating the enjoyment. That hurts! Nevertheless, I don't terminate the friendship of the round. She knows something about wines - but not about Swiss wines; she enjoys the tastings, but not without grumbling; she can only increase her enthusiasm when Rieslings (at most Bordeaux
and Burgundy) are on the table
Maybe the Swiss wine associations would have to do some educational work. But they are so divided and paralyzed that their work doesn't even reach Cologne anymore.
My consolation: my neighbor. She hasn't changed her insights and her behaviour for a long time: "...what I don't know, that ..." Yes, what? It's no good, I don't need it or I don't want to know it. I like her anyway, my neighbor.
Yours sincerely, Peter