Golly Golatta – native grapes in Geneva
Wine tasting in Geneva
It’s good to know your neighbours, I’ve always thought, but you don’t always know what you’re going to get. When I crossed the border into to neighbouring Switzerland on a recent sunny afternoon, however, the welcome seemed heartier than an Aussie Shiraz.
Perhaps it was the good weather after months of cold and rain, or the fact we’d all been cooped up in Covid-world for too long, or perhaps that’s how they always are. Whatever it was, there was something pretty friendly going on at Domaine de la Mermière, an 11 hectare organic winery in the Geneva countryside and just a few metres from the border with France.
I’d popped over ‘next door’ for a little excursion they had on offer: a tractor tour in the vineyard followed by a tasting. It turns out I wasn’t the only ‘neighbour’ in the group: their actual next-door neighbours were there too, introduced jovially by owner and winemaker Yves as ‘the most exotic’ in the group.
With ‘joy and humility’ is how this vineyard describes their approach to their work, aiming to produce wines that are unique and authentic. Joyful they certainly were. “It’s important, in these times, to bring people together, to enjoy nature,” explained winemaker and owner Yves when I asked what prompted the idea.
Humble in their winemaking methods too, aiming to be increasingly curious and less interventionist, ie as natural as possible.
Swiss wine, you might say, that’s not something we see in the local bottle store too often. Probably not at all, considering they drink 99% of the 150 million bottles they produce each year.
The country has been making wine since the Roman days and today their wineries are spread across six different regions, with Geneva producing around 10%. Unsurprisingly, some of their domains sit at altitude, and they boast the highest wine region in Europe (Visperterminen, between 650m and 1150m). The Swiss are also pretty good at drinking wine, being fourth in the world when it comes to consumption per capita.
(So yes, the moral of the story is, if you want to drink Swiss wine, you have to go there).
Not such a bad thing, especially when there are winemakers whose philosophy is to work with joy and humility.
Joyful we certainly were as our tractor meandered past the budding vines, from Gamaret to Garanoir, Galotta to Pinot noir, Chasselas and beyond, with interesting and cheerful commentary from our driver Justine, Yve’s daughter.
After an hour or so of detailed explanations about the particularities of each grape variety and their viticultural methods, she looked around and asked if there were any last questions.
“Because if not, then it’s tasting time,”.
“Pas de questions!!” shot back the ‘exotic’ neighbour, and we all guffawed our way onto the tractor.
Bumbling along back to the domain, humble we felt too, admiring the glorious Geneva countryside set against its not so distant mountains, all of which is literally on our doorstep. It’s always good to get to know your neighbours.
When it comes to Geneva whites, I have still not come across anything I like better than a good old Chasselas. To me it is the taste of Geneva, light but full of flavour, subtle but with some complexity all the same. Their Chasselas (vieille vignes) is fresh and floral, with a nice acidity, touches of orange. The use of old vines gives it that extra depth.
We also tasted the Altesse, which was more on the oaky, stony side, and the Kern-Sauvignon blanc, which, if you love green-grass ‘vegetal’ Sav blancs, this one is for you.
A blend of Garanoir and Gamay, the Rouge Terre 2019 is a goodie for barbecues, being light and fruity, easy drinking.
Another blend, the Noir Desir brings together Chaudenay, Pinot Noir, Garanoir and Galotta. Full bodied, lots of red fruits and really quite full on, it’s delicious but could be a bit heavy without something hearty to eat.
Their wines ‘Du Coin, sans soufre’ is the name of their selection of natural wines, with nothing added, not even sulfur dioxide, which is tricky to pull off indeed. Of these, we tried the Chaud du Coin, which is made of a variety of Gamay called Gamay de Chaudenay. Not really what you expect in a Gamay! And not from snow-capped Switzerland! Full and warm, medium bodied and fruity, yum.