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.

Swiss Wine: Gamaret

Gamaret is another modern variety of grape developed by the Swiss in Pully in the 1970’s. It’s known for its deep colour, dark berry fruits on the nose and spiciness. It is often aged in oak which can give it a slightly “burnt” characteristic – one of the best examples of a Gamaret I’ve tried in the past, the Grande Reserve from Chateau du Mont had a wonderful hint of toast about it.

Gamaret’s creator, André Jaquinet, crossed the Gamay and Reichensteiner (an Austrian white grape) varieties with the aim of creating a high yield, early ripening wine similar to a Pinot Noir, but with a good resistance to mildew and parasites. He succeeded and managed to generate not one but two new varieties that are still used in Switzerland today.

Gamaret (or Pully B-13 as it was first known) was originally intended for the French speaking cantons and its sister variety Garanoir (Pully B-28) for the German ones. I can’t comment on the German speaking cantons, but quite often down my end of the country they are both grown and then sold together as a blend with the lighter Garanoir softening the punchier Gamaret. You can also however buy Gamaret (and more occasionally Garanoir) as a single varietal all by itself, which is exactly what I did.

The first bottle I tried for this post was an oak aged 2011 from Villard & Fils in Geneva (CHF20 from Wine Universe at Geneva airport)

Gamaret Villard & Fils

Gamaret Villard & Fils

This was an exceptionally dark purple colour in the glass and had magnificent legs considering it was only 13%. It looked really elegant and beautiful. The nose was full of fresh berries with a hint of the woodiness underneath.

Gamaret Villard & Fils in the glass

Gamaret Villard & Fils in the glass

To drink, this wine was very smooth and refined with only a slight hint of acid and tannins. It was rich and silky and while you could taste the oak a little, it was just a hint and not at all overpowering. There was a fresh and light spiciness on the palate that became much more pronounced when I drank the wine with some food. All in all this was a lovely bottle of wine.

The second bottle was a 2012 from Domaine de Château L’Évêque who are also based in Geneva (CHF15.50 from Coop)

Gamaret from Domaine de Château L’Évêque

Gamaret from Domaine de Château L’Évêque

I was very excited to give this one a go as it had been biodynamically grown and harvested. I have heard a lot about biodynamic wines but before now I’ve not actually been able to give one a try. I was intrigued to see if the effort involved in producing such wines would show through in the glass.

Gamaret from Domaine de Château L’Évêque in the glass

Gamaret from Domaine de Château L’Évêque in the glass

Unfortunately, while this was a perfectly lovely, drinkable wine, it was not the shining example of a Gamaret that I was hoping for. It appeared was very light and thin. The colour seemed much closer to a Gamay or Pinot Noir and there were very few legs despite this wine also being 13%. At first, there was not too much scent either, it took a good vigorous swirl for it to start giving up its aromas.

When they were released, they were not the dark berries I was expecting but instead something more herby and medicinal. There was also a sweet background note which was almost toffeeish (which is “burnt” in a way I guess).

The wine itself had a very subtle spiciness with a plum/damson like finish. Overall it was a very pleasant light wine to drink and I enjoyed it quite a lot, it just tasted nothing like a Gamaret! I don’t know if this had anything to do with it being Biodynamic and reflecting its particular terroir or maybe it was just my particular bottle. I think I’ll have to try and find some more biodynamic wines and experiment!

Swiss Wine: Diolinoir

Diolinoir is a modern Swiss grape developed to be more disease resistance.  It was “invented” if that’s the correct word, in Pully (Canton Vaud) in 1970 and is a cross between the Diolly and Pinot Noir varieties (pollen from Pinot Noir fertilizing Diolly plants in case you’re interested).

A lot of the Diolinoir grown in Switzerland is used for assemblage wines as it blends very well, but you can find it sold is as a varietal as well.   Diolinoir typically has a deep red colour and powerful nose.  It has fairly light tannins and is said to age well.

The first Diolinoir I tried was a 2009 Magie Noir Diolinor from the village of Signy in Vaud, just above Nyon (CHF24.50 in a shop (L’Horloge) in Nyon, CHF16 direct from the producer, Domaine du Capitole).

Domaine du Capitole Magie Noire Diolinoir Bottle

Domaine du Capitole Magie Noire Diolinoir Bottle

I wasn’t in Switzerland in 2009, but it must have been an extremely sunny year.  The label picture on the vineyard’s website shows that the 2008 vintage was a hearty 13.5%, however the 2009 vintage that I tried was a staggering 14.8%!  This high alcohol content meant that the wine had some of the most amazing legs that I have ever seen, they hung forever.

Domaine du Capitole Magie Noire Diolinoir in the Glass

Domaine du Capitole Magie Noire Diolinoir in the Glass

With the wine in a glass the colour reminded me of a Malbec; it was so dark that I could barely see through it.  It had a deep berry fruit nose with hints of wood and pear.  In the mouth it was soft with very little acidity.  You would never have guessed the percentage from the taste, it was very short and there was no tang of alcohol at all.

Instead it was pleasant and bright with a hint of spice.  Overall this was a very enjoyable wine, just a bit non-descript on the palate.  I enjoyed it and would happily drink more if I had some to hand or saw it on a wine menu, however I don’t feel the need to rush back to Nyon to grab some more for my cellar.

The next Diolinoir that I tried was a 2012 vintage (13.5%) produced by Albert Biollaz based in Sion, Valais (CHF 16.90 from Wine Universe at Geneva Airport Train Station or, if you’re in the UK, £20.40 for the 2011 vintage from Nick Dobson Wines)

Albert Biollaz Diolinoir in the Bottle

Albert Biollaz Diolinoir in the Bottle

Not as dark as the Magie Noir, this still had a deep vivid ruby hue.  This wine had such an strong aroma (a intriguing mix of fruit and earthy woodland) that I was able to notice it even when the glass was across the room from me.

Albert Biollaz Diolinoir in the Glass

Albert Biollaz Diolinoir in the Glass

Being much younger this had a lot more acidity than the Magie Noir.  It was quite dry and also very short with a little hint of blackberry flavour lruking, but disappointingly, no real punch or flair to back up the power of the nose.  Again I would pop this in the category of perfectly drinkable but not terrible exciting.

Overall I would say that, while it was fun to try and new grape, especially one developed so recently, I don’t think there’s much to really “sell” Diolinor from a tasting point of view.  It’s a perfectly good, inoffensive quaffable red, but it lacks that certain something that makes a wine truly special (or at least these two wines did).  For both I felt that they smelt must more interesting than they tasted.  That said, not every wine has to be an event.  Depending on the meal or occasion, sometimes you need something reliable if a little uninteresting.