As I continued my journey into the heart of Switzerland’s only Grand Cru wine making area, I met up with Gilles Besse of Cave Jean-René Germanier. He is, in my humble opinion, one of Switzerland’s top wine makers.
The Jean-René Germanier Winery
La Cave Jean-René Germanier was established in 1886 when Urban Germanier planted his first vineyards and founded a winery in Vétroz, a small village at the very heart of Valais (see the post about Rene-Favre & Fils Winery for more information on this region). Today, 3rd- and 4th-generation oenologists Jean-René Germanier and Gilles Besse produce wines that rival those of the world’s best producers, although Jean-René Germanier – while still very much involved and passionate about wines – now spends most of his time playing politics as he is a member of the Swiss Parliament. Apart from wines, the Germanier Estate is also known for its remarkable eau de vie (i.e. fruit brandy). Another Germanier ancestor, Francis Germanier, was the first to make eau de vie from the now-famous Williams pears, giving birth to Germanier Estate’s Bon Père William.
The Germanier Wine Varietals
The Jean-René Germanier Estate produces both white wines and red wines. The following is a list of the grape varieties used in making Germanier wines:
White wine varietals
- Chasselas (Fendant)
- Petite Arvine
- Humagne Blanche
Red wine varietals
- Humagne Rouge
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Pinot Noir
Remarkable Germanier Wines
Jean-René Germanier & Gilles Besse have achieved star status in Switzerland and around the world for their superb, award-winning wines. Cayas, Champmarais and Mitis are just three of these notable Germanier wines.
Cayas Syrah Du Valais: Wine Review and Tasting Notes
Cayas Syrah Du Valais is a Syrah varietal red wine. It resembles any great Rhône Côte-Rôtie or Crozes-Hermitage wines, but surpasses most of them.
Cayas has an intense garnet robe. It is very elegant; the nose is complex yet surprisingly delicate for such a full-bodied wine. It presents the aromas of blackcurrant, blackberry, redcurrant, some spice (with hints of licorice and pepper), leather, vanillin, and a touch of earthy mineral-like notes.
There’s an almost-perfect balance between acidity and tannin’s, which gives Cayas a surprisingly crisp and harmonious finish for a Syrah. To put it simply, this is the type of wine you can drink, glass after glass, without having to force yourself one bit.
Proof of its excellence can be seen in all of its awards. Among its many awards is a Gold Medal in Vinalies Internationale Paris and a Gold Medal as well as the distinction of being one of the Top 10 Best Syrahs in Syrah du Monde 2009. It is also the only Swiss wine you’ll find in the wine list of the famous La Tour d’Argent in Paris.
As you all know, the purpose of my visit into the Swiss wine country is to introduce you and the rest of the world to unique Swiss wines. As remarkable as Cayas is, it’s still a Syrah varietal – and Syrah is not a grape variety native to Switzerland.
If you are hankering for wines uniquely Swiss, then you’d love my discussion of the next two Germanier wines: Cornalin de Champmarais and Mitis Amigne De Vétroz.
Cornalin de Champmarais: Wine Review and Tasting Notes
Cornalin de Champmarais is a red wine. As its name suggests, it is made using the Swiss wine grape, Cornalin.
Now, as anyone who has had Cornalin wines would tell you, wines made of Cornalin often have a great nose and superb finish but tend to be lacking on the mid-palate. Not this time, though. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with Champmarais, which embodies all of the positive characteristics of the Cornalin varietal but none of its faults. No wonder Cornalin de Champmarais belongs to the growing list of Germanier wines with a Gold Medal from Viniales Internationales Paris.
Cornalin de Champmarais owes its full body from superior wine grapes and a unique fermentation and maturation process.
At Cave Jean-René Germanier, the grapes used all come from a single vineyard, ensuring great grape quality control. These select Cornal in grapes are fermented in 400-liter barrels made of new oak. The resulting wine is then aged, again in 400-liter new oak barrels for 2 years.
Champ Maris is a day-bright, pigeon-blood-red wine with purple hues. It is a rich, complex and highly fragrant wine with excellent aging potential. It presents the aromas of raspberry, blackcurrant, morello cherry, and hints of spices (peppercorn, vanilla). On the palate, the wine is elegant and velvety, with the fruit and wood tannins perfectly integrated. This is one wine you’ll find very hard to enjoy in moderation.
Mitis Amigne De Vétroz: Wine Review and Tasting Notes
Mitis Amigne De Vétroz, an Amigne varietal white wine, is another premium wine from the Germanier Estate. This sweet dessert wine, made using botrytised grapes, is aged on its lees in new oak for up to 18 months. It can rival any top-of-the-line Austrian and German wine of the same style. In fact, Mitis Amigne De Vétroz 2007, has just been awarded a Gold Medal in Vinalies Internationale Paris 2010.
This amber-colored, full-bodied wine presents the aromas of quince comfits, linden, honey-roasted hazelnuts, a touch of Cointreau-like orange peel, and a hint of vanilla bud. This succulent wine enrobes your entire palate, leaving a smooth but lingering caramel or toffee finish. In a word, Wow! Just writing about it is making me salivate.
The Germanier Cellars and Winery
All Germanier wines are made, aged and bottled at the Germanier Estate. Red and white wines are kept separate, and each has its own dedicated “caretaker.” The Jean-René Germanier Winery is a modern production facility. It has undergone some renovations over the years to meet the ever-increasing demand for its wines. More changes are expected to be instituted in the near future.
Germanier wines are available for sale at the tasting room, which is elegant and spacious enough to accommodate large parties. If you are ever in the neighborhood, I urge you to take the time to visit the Jean-René Germanier Winery and sample its wines. You can tell them I sent you.
Just one thing, though: please drink responsibly. There are just so many great wines in that tasting room you’ll find it very hard to spit all of them out. Can’t or won’t take my word for it? You can ask my father who was with me on this particular visit. Let’s just say he had a little too much to drive… Cheers!