Swiss Wine: Oeil de Perdrix

The sun has been shining and summer is here so, after previously exploring a couple of the Swiss white and red grapes, I decided it was time for me to sample some Swiss rosé. Oeil de Perdrix is a rosé made from pinot noir. The name means eye of the partridge and is a reference to its pink colour (apparently partridges’ eyes turn pink when they are killed – not the nicest thing to name your wine after!).

While Oeil de Perdrix is now a protected AOC wine (it can only be made in Neuchâtel, Geneva, Vaud or Valais), it actually originated up in the champagne region. Prior to inventing the methode champenoise, the regions attempts at making white wine from red grapes resulted in pale pink wines which were referred to as vin gris or Oeil de Perdrix. When Dom Pérignon later worked out how to make truly white (and sparkly!) wine from the red grapes the Champenoise stopped making Oeil de Perdrix, however somehow the technique travelled to Neuchatel and was adopted there.

These days Oeil de Perdrix is a dry wine made with free run juices and with very little contact between the skin and the juice. While Neuchâtel is it’s spiritual home (it was originally only produced there), the two I tried were from elsewhere in the Swiss Romande: one from Peissy in Geneva and one from Valais.

First up was a 2012 bottle from Les Perrieres, in Peissy Geneva (CHF12)

Les Perrieres Oeil de Perdrix

Les Perrieres Oeil de Perdrix

For a rosé wine with very little skin contact (6-12 hours) this was more of an orangey salmon pink than the delicate pale wine I would have expected. It had very few legs (surprising at 13%) and a fruity nose of apricot and apple.

Les Perrieres Oeil de Perdrix in the glass

Les Perrieres Oeil de Perdrix in the glass

This was a very acidic wine which greatly improved with some food. At first there was very little flavour, juts the acidic and a hint of minerarlity, however with food the fruit became more apparent and the wine a little rounder and softer. Not a bad wine, but not something I would want to drink too much of by itself.

The next Oeil de Perdrix I tried was a 2012 bottle from Cave Saint George in Valais (CHF11.95 from Manor) which had won a best of Swiss wines award.

Cave Saint George Oeil de Perdrix

Cave Saint George Oeil de Perdrix

This was an even darker colour than the Geneva bottle, an extremely deep pink. Again, despite being 13% there were no legs to speak of, however there did seem to be the tiniest hint of fizz, a little “spritz” which was interesting. Swirling the glass revealed fresh aromas of peach and citrus.

Cave Saint George Oeil de Perdrix in the glass

Cave Saint George Oeil de Perdrix in the glass

Again this was a very dry acidic wine with a mineral flavour, however it had a fruiter sweeter finish than the Les Perriers bottle making it more suitable for an aperitif. It was quite a rich full wine and worked well with a spicy dish I was enjoying.

These were both very dry and sharp wines and while they were a little too acidic for me by themselves, they were both lovely with food. I’m intrigued by the story and origins of Oeil de Perdrix and I’m going to keep my eye out now for a Neuchâtel bottle to try as well.

Fête de la Saint-Martin in Peissy – A celebration of wine

This past Saturday (the 9th November) I spent the afternoon in the village of Peissy for their St Martin’s Day festival.  The village, which is part of the commune of Satigny in Geneva, has been producing wine since 912 (making this their 1100th vintage!) and has been holding the festival to celebrate these wines since 1995.

To get there, for me, it’s a wonderful 10 minute bike ride away through the vineyards which are even more stunning than usual as their leaves are turning and on a beautiful cold and sunny day I couldn’t wait to get out and enjoy the day.

Choully vinyards

The Choully vinyards on my way to Peissy

Despite the village being pretty small there are 7 wineries!  All of them are involved in this festival and open their doors to the public for free tastings.  As with cave ouverts, you just buy a glass etched with the name of the village (CHF12) and walk from winery to winery trying what you fancy.

The festival begins at 10am with an auction of 7 barrels of the best of the previous year’s vintage (one from each domain and each holding 300 bottles!) with the money raised going to a charity which sends clowns to children in hospital.  The lucky winners will receive their wine in personalized bottles at a later date.  I didn’t turn up till after lunch so I missed this, but apparently it’s great fun to watch!

The festivities then continue all day with donkey rides and a carousel for the kids and plenty of wine, food and music for the adults to enjoy.

The donkey!

The donkey!

One of the bands - playing daddy cool!

One of the bands – They were playing daddy cool!

Of the 7 caves and domains that were open I made it round four starting off with Domaine les Perrieres.  Researching beforehand I found out that this domain has an impressive number of gold medals and I was looking forward to trying some of them as well as their very unusual Rose de Gameret

Domaine les Perrieres

Domaine les Perrieres

After sampling a fair few of their wines I could see why they have so many awards, the only one that disappointed me was their viognier which smelt divine but then tasted rather flat.  I ended up buying a Sauvignon Blanc, an oak aged Gamaret and a Premier Cru Cab Sauv and Merlot blend.

Next up I strolled down the hill to the Cave les Cretets where I tried a very interesting Sauvignon Gris (a mutation of Sauvignon Blanc) and a wonderful Gewurztraminer before working my way through their extensive collection of reds.  I eventually left with a bottle of Garanoir.

Cave les Cretets

Cave les Cretets

Feeling pleasantly merry it was time to head back up the hill and off to the Domain des Trois Etoiles which was also hosting the carousel and a candy floss machine.  Inside was another band was playing and quite a few people were dancing and joining in.  While they produce as large a variety of wines as the other domains, they only have a limited selection available to try.

Domaine des Trois Etoiles

Domaine des Trois Etoiles

My final stop was Domaine des Charmes which in addition to wines was handing out some lovely puff pastry cheese straws –  a very welcome snack as while sunny, it was quite cold out and I was getting pretty hungry.  After tasting a few of their wines it was time to head home with all my purchases before I started to lose the light.

Domain des Charmes

Domain des Charmes

Heading home

Heading home

For those who stayed the evening ended with fireworks at 18.30!  I could juts about make these out from home so I didn’t miss out entirely!