My journey into the Swiss wine country included a stop in St. Pierre-de-Clages, a village in the municipality of Chamoson in the canton (state) of Valais. There, I met up with Mike and John (Jean-Charles) Favre of the Rene Favre et Fils (Rene Favre & Sons) winery.
The Wine Region of St. Pierre-de-Clages, Chamoson
The wine-growing area of St.Pierre-de-Clages and Chamoson is the largest in Valais and home to around 30 different wine grape varieties. The soil in this area is mostly limestone. The vineyards are situated on the right bank of the Rhone River, and most of them are on gentle slopes. The unique location of the St.Pierre-de-Clages – Chamoson vineyards gives them a southern exposure that makes the proper maturation of wine grapes possible, and it is at the heart of this exceptionally located wine-growing region that you’ll find the Rene Favre & Fils Estate.
Rene Favre & Fils Winery
The Rene Favre & Fils winery specializes in Petite Arvine wines produced from the world’s oldest Petite Arvine vines. This family winery is currently run and operated by the Favre brothers, Mike and John.
John Favre first studied at the agricultural school of Chateauneuf in Valais. Next, he went to L’ecole Superieure de Changins, the best viticultural and oenology school in Switzerland.
Mike Favre took a slightly different route. He studied Economics before going on to study Oenology and Viticulture in the state’s engineering school. Then, he set off to the US where he lived and made wines for 7 years before returning to Switzerland and the family estate. Today Mike is Vice President of Vinofed, among other
Mike and John Favre represent the new generation of winemakers. Bold, forward-looking and passionate about their wines and vines, they are revolutionizing the industry by introducing and applying new techniques to viticulture and winemaking.
The Favre Vines
The Favre vineyards are easily identifiable by the way the vines are planted. Specifically, the vines are arranged into two tight rows and one larger row (see picture gallery).
The vines were planted this way mainly for efficiency. This configuration gives grape pickers better access to the grapes. It also makes the vines more accessible to a specialized machine that removes extra leaves. The removal of extra leaves increases air flow within the canopy. This helps prevent rot and other vine diseases and, consequently, the Favres don’t need to use pesticides on their vines.
The Favre vines are, in fact, some of the cleanest I have ever seen (see it for yourself by checking the picture gallery), and I have seen plenty in my trips to vineyards worldwide.
The Favre Wines and Wine Production
The Rene Favre & Fils winery produces a diverse range of wines. Their white wine production consists mainly of Petite Arvine, Johannisberg (Sylvaner) and Fendant (Chasselas). Their red wine production, in turn, consists mainly of Pinot Noir, Gamay, Humagne Rouge, Merlot, Syrah, and Diolinoir.
All Favre wines are made in the estate, and all of them are fermented in stainless steel vats. Most of the whites never see oak, but all the reds do. The profiles of Favre wines are typical of the region, with the exception of a few blends which Mike and John have produced for a more international palate.
My personal favorite in the Favre white wine lineup is the “old vines” Petite Arvine (i.e. Petite Arvine wine made with grapes harvested from very old Petite Arvine vines). This wine is fresh with a medium body and balanced acidity. It has the aromas of lemon, grapefruit rind and rhubarb and some floral notes, too. It also has noticeable minerality (limestone) on the palate and a pleasant touch of salinity.
My favorite Favre red is the Renommée St. Pierre, which is surprisingly rich and fruit driven for a Suisse Pinot Noir. This is wine aged for 18 months in oak, and I highly recommend it to any Pinot lovers.
This is all for now. Watch out for more posts about Swiss winemakers and Swiss wines. In the meantime, you can read the first two installments in the Swiss wine series: Swiss Wine Facts and The Adrian and Diego Mathier Winery.