Chasselas: Switzerland’s White Wine

When you think of wine making countries, which come to mind? France, Italy, the US, Australia. One rarely shouts, “Switzerland!” That’s probably because it currently ranks 20th in world wine production. It falls behind the up-and-coming China, Georigia, even Romania. (Yes, Romania makes wine and don’t worry I’m on it!) Still, in a country that boasts some of the steepest vineyards in the world, at up to 50 degrees, they make some very pretty wines.

Surprisingly, in this very cool climate, the majority of grapes grown are red. Pinot noir is the most planted, called Blauburgunder here. In my quest to take you off the beaten wine path, I skipped this major variety and moved into the whites. Of these, Chasselas is the most planted and easiest found. I worked on the other varieties like Amigne, Humagne Blanche, and Petite Arvine but, alas, Swiss wine is not widely exported. This may have something to do with that fact that the local people themselves drink an average of 12 gallons of wine per year. I guess I’ll have to visit the country myself!

Chasselas is an ancient, low acid grape that is thought to have originated near Lake Geneva. For my tasting I chose “Le Morget” Selection 2019 by Henri Cruchon. This wine is light bodied, with flavors of yellow apple, pear, and a hint of white pepper. At first taste it’s tempting to dismiss this wine as easy drinking, but the more I went back to my glass the more I discovered. I began to get notes of pineapple upside down cake, white flowers, stony minerality, and a touch of honey. I imagined the grapes plucked from their mountainside terraces (called tablars), traveling down Swiss slopes by monorail. Yes, just like Disney World these grapes go on a magical ride. I started to appreciate the nature of the wine. Instead of calling it “light” I started to taste the crisp, cool alpine air.

Chasselas can be paired with seafood, vegetables, but most of all cheese. A classic pairing in my mind is Chasselas and fondue. I went about gathering, and melting in my crock pot, Gruyere, Gouda, and Swiss cheese, of course. And this did not disappoint! The slight saltiness in the cheese brought out a salinity in the wine, as well as an earthiness I hadn’t noticed before. The freshness of the wine balanced the creamy nature of the cheese. The garlic component of the fondue began to pop out with each sip. It appeared this food and wine combination fit like a glove. After the traditional bread pieces, I also tried dipping grilled asparagus and steak into the fondue. This was surprisingly good and a great way to enjoy Chasselas with red meat.

I found my Henri Cruchon “Le Morget” Selection at Buvette, a wonderful wine bar and shop in Sherman Oaks, CA. Check your local specialty wine shops, or you can find Albert Boxler Chasselas currently on wine.com. Pull out that old fondue pot and have yourself a Switzerland style night!

I’d love to hear your feedback and what part of the world you’d like to travel to next!

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