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

Johannisberg

Second in white wines of Valais (after Fendant). The name Johannisberg is only used in Valais; the rest of French-speaking Switzerland call it Gros Rhin. The grape used to make Johannisberg is the Grüner Sylvaner. The origin of the grape is not clear. On the one hand it strongly resembles the Roman Apianisien (loved by bees) grape, as described by Pliny the Elder in his “Historia naturalis”, on the other hand, its more likely birthplace is in Romanian Transylvania.

Pinot blanc

Pinot blanc is a mutation of Pinot Gris. It may have found its way up the Rhône to Valais with any number of mercenaries returning to Switzerland, and today small quantities are cultivated in many Swiss wine regions. When grown in favorable conditions it produces a fruity wine with good acidity.

Cornalin

An ancient and indigenous alpine variety found only in Valais, Cornalin gives a wine that is fruity with a fine bouquet and intense purple-red color. The slightly rustic hint makes it a good companion for game dishes.

New loves and old wine, give a man these and he never refines.

Francis Beeding

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

Fine Swiss Wine

Discover Switzerland’s odd grapes, small producers, and eclectic tastes