I was looking forward to catching up with old friends and wines that aren't easily available in the UK. In the end, my old friends were enjoying the ski slopes so I had to content myself with a selection of Swiss wine instead. Swiss Miss part 1.
Swiss red wine can be very good. I've had some Pinot Noir, stored for 10 years in the wine maker's cellar and really loved it. There is decent Merlot from the Italian-speaking Ticino area. But the reds can be pricey. The whites can be too, but there's definitely a lot more variety in the white wines, and they pair wonderfully with the famous cheese fondue. Also, they are, in my extensive testing, more suitable dance partners than reds.
Petite Arvine is one of my favourite Swiss varieties. However this one from the Valais wine region, which produces 50% of all Swiss wine, was at the lower end of the price spectrum at 8.50 CHF for a 500ml bottle. I didn't expect much and yet was still a little disappointed. Swiss Miss part 2.
This was almost too acidic for Mr Purple Teeth, although it's definitely not as acidic as some Rieslings we enjoy. The main issue is that the nose promises more than the palate delivers. There are hints of exotic fruit, but the flavour is light and delicate rather than intensely floral. It paired well with fish, and might be good as an aperitif, though one glass would suffice. Don't less this put you off trying it if you get the chance. Decent ones are delicious. It will deliver soft florals and tropical flavours and is really the darling of Swiss wine.
Another pink wine I enjoyed was Dole Blanche. As with the Oeil-de-Perdrix, it's made of Pinot Noir, pressed as a white wine, with the skins removed after just a few hours. What makes it different is the blending of Gamay grapes, more commonly drunk as Beaujolais. It's a simple and refreshing light pink, ideal for a summer evening, or pairing with a light risotto. You'll taste mainly cherry and cranberry flavour tone with some raspberry.
Finally, Fendant du Valais was the wine on offer at the dance venue. And I was very happy with the choice. Fendant is a protected name for Valais grown Chasselas grape variety, and comes from the French word “fendre” (to split), an image recalling the plump ripe grapes that “burst open” with the slightest pressure from your fingers. Some Chasselas can be acidic but this was smooth, and the ideal "dancing white", meaning it survived warming up gradually between dances, refreshed, and had a lovely flavour profile with mineral and fruity notes. A Swiss hit!
Swiss wine is hard to come by in the UK. Most of it is drunk within the country as low production and high costs make it an unlikely export product. But if you're hitting the slopes this winter, do try to pair some Swiss white with your raclette or fondue. I can't guarantee it will give you confidence, but you might find a new treat.