Unique Swiss Wine Terms

Unique Swiss Wine Terms

Like so many other countries, Switzerland also has some mysterious names appearing on the label. Here are a few tips in unraveling those mysteries:

If you come across a Federweisser or Weissherbst, then you have a young refreshing Pinot Noir which was bottled from red grapes that were so gently pressed they resemble white wine. For this style of wine, always choose the youngest vintage as they are best when consumed young.

A Schiller wine from Graubünden is a wine made from both red and white grape varieties. It appears like a Rosé. Try to avoid Schiller wines which have an alcohol content greater than 13,5%, which can happen in very hot years such as 2003. High alcohol will throw this wine-style out of balance and create a burning sensation.

The well-known Dôle from Wallis is always a blend of at least 85% Pinot Noir and Gamay. The remaining 15% can be a mix of any red variety. To make things a bit more confusing, from the 85% blend, at least 51% must be Pinot Noir. A Dôle Blanche is made like a Federweisser – only it uses the same Dôle grape varieties.

The Savagnin from canton Waadt is also a blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay.

Oeil-de-Perdrix (partridge eye) is a rosé wine made exclusively from the Pinot Noir grape. It is produced in Wallis and Neuchâtel.

Sometimes you can still locate a wine with the term Beerliwein or Beerliwyy on the label. In the past, the red Pinot Noir grape was crushed and pressed with the stems, creating a wine that was strong and tannic. Beerliwyy was wine that was pressed without the stem – just the grape (the term Beerli means berry). Today almost all grapes are de-stemmed after harvest and only the grape is pressed. The term now refers to a very fruity young Pinot Noir that has not been barrel aged. It should be served slightly chilled.

In the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland a white wine is made from the red Merlot grape variety. It is called Merlot Bianco, and has a robust character which pairs well with strong flavored foods.

Flétri (or Flétri sur souche) is a sweet wine from Wallis. It was made from grapes that were dried on the vine. These are excellent wines, although they are a bit rare and quite expensive.