Swiss Wine Regions

Academie du Vin Introductory Wine Course

Swiss white wine and scenes of Switzerland

An introductory wine course is being offered by the Académie du Vin, in cooperation with COOP - the largest wine retailer in Switzerland. The Académie is an independent Swiss organization that is affiliated with the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET), and provides a series of their own courses, as well as the full WSET certification program.

Although not a requirement for starting out on the certification process, this course is a good starting off point, and equally interesting for those of us wanting to improve our wine knowledge, or for the absolute beginner to get a bit of the mystery around wine removed. At present these courses are only offered in the regional language, i.e. German in Zurich.

This was not the first wine tasting course I've attended, but it was the best organized and structured, both in the sense of how the course was run, and in the way the information was presented. Each stage of the course was built on the previous stage, and was immediately reinforced with wine tasting.

The instructor was knowledgeable and very enthusiastic about the subject. The displays and handouts were professional and informative, and best of all, the wine was darn good. If I have one niggle, it is with the size of the pouring. Once you've tasted the wine there was nothing left to follow along with during the detailed discussion. I found it more valuable to save my wine for the discussion, rather than the initial tasting.

The wine selection in my previous wine tasting classes were somewhat random. Then in the discussions afterward the qualities of the wine were highlighted, or not, depending on the groups experience and temperament. This is a great learning experience and good for sharpening your wine tasting skills, however not necessarily ideal for the absolute beginner. For someone that doesn't know a whiff of gooseberry from a hint of apricot - or for that matter even knows what a gooseberry is - we must first be shown the gooseberry. And that is exactly where this course by the Académie du Vin is better.

Starting on arrival you are presented with an "aroma Para course", 12 sniffing stations each with small plastic cups containing scents. You're given a card to fill in and your task is to identify the scents, first the scent family; earthy, fruity, floral, etc, then the specific scent. It is a humbling experience. The answers are then given during the first part of the class and during the break you can go back for another sniff.

The class itself is a balanced mix of information and tasting. Where a wine making technique enhances a specific trait, acidity for example, it is discussed and is followed with a tasting to illustrate that specific quality: try the first wine, slurp, swallow or spit, now try the second wine. THAT is acidic.

Thanks to this course, the next time I'm in one of those other tasting classes, I will be able to raise my hand with confidence and say, "THAT is acidic"

The Wine Grapes of Switzerland

Merlot

Imported from the Bordeaux region, Merlot has found a second home in Ticino where it performs extremely well. Later-ripening than the other main Swiss varieties, it is hardly present in other areas. Merlot red wines are racy, tannic and richly colored. A white wine from this black grape, commercialized as Merlot Bianco, gives quite interesting results and is increasingly popular with producers and consumers alike.

Pinot Noir

Genetic studies have revealed that Pinot Noir is probably one of the two ancestors (the other being the humble Gouais) of some of the most important vines cultivated in Europe today. It is certainly a particularly ancient variety, and originally from Burgundy. Pinot Noir, with its associated clones, is found all over Switzerland, but it is only in the eastern region that it dominates production. It is either produced as a varietal or blended with other grapes. These blends are known as Salvagnin in Vaud and Dôle in Valais. Depending on where it is grown, it can produce a wine that is either light and fruity, or rich and full-bodied.

Gamay

This is the variety that produces all the Beaujolais wines. Later-ripening than Pinot Noir, Gamay is very widespread in the western, French-speaking part of Switzerland. But it is in Geneva that it has become the dominant red variety. Produced as a varietal in Geneva or blended with Pinot Noir in Vaud (Salvagnin) and Valais (Dôle), Gamay produces lively, light wines with vivacious aromas of freshly picked red fruits. These wines are best consumed young

In vino veritas.

Pliny the Elder

Swiss Alps, cows, wine bottle and large clock face in Bern, Switzerland

Fine Swiss Wine

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