Blog - wine

Suisse Ambassadeur du Champagne 2010

by Jack McNulty
October 26, 2010

silvia_ambassadeur 2010 2

Silvia Gautschi McNulty won the Swiss final of the 6th Concours des Ambassadeurs du Champagne competition held on the 17th of September in Geneva. She will travel to Epernay in the heart of the Champagne region to compete in the European final on October 28th against seven other finalists.

Silvia battled her nerves in Geneva and managed to deliver an outstanding and original presentation on the diversity of champagne, while expertly tasting and presenting four champagnes to a jury of four experts and a captivated audience. “Silvia represents the exact profile we are seeking for a champagne ambassador” stated Violaine de Caffarelli, Jury President and Enologist for the Comité Champagne, as she awarded Silvia the prize.

Silvia holds a level V honors diploma from the London-based Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET) and several advanced certificates from schools in Austria, Italy, Spain and Switzerland. She is also a member of the Swiss German Sommelier Association, a qualified instructor of Sherry Wine from the Regulatory Authority in Jerez, Spain and a regular instructor at the Zürich-based Académie Du Vin. Of course, Silvia is also partner and wine educator at Laughing Lemon Food & Wine.

During her first couple of days in the Champagne region, Silvia will have the opportunity to visit some of the top producers…and of course taste their products. The final competition will be held on Thursday, October 28 and will again include a presentation to the jury and champagne tastings. The winner will be announced on Friday, October 29 and we will announce the results on the Laughing Lemon Food & Wine Facebook page.

We wish Silvia the best of luck in her competition!

Warming Up To Ice Wines

by Silvia
December 20, 2009


The recent frigid weather in Switzerland created perfect conditions to produce ice wines…a situation which does not often occur. Swiss wine-makers produce some of the most remarkable ice wines when given the chance…but only with extraordinary dedication to their craft.

It’s hours before the December sun rises and the temperature outside is well below freezing. It’s the perfect time to get out of a nice warm bed to harvest grapes. This is the type of sacrifice winemakers have to make in order to produce top quality ice wines.

Harvesting proceeds quickly before any sign of warmth thaws the grapes. The frozen grapes arrive at the equally frozen winery. All the doors and windows have been left open to keep the temperatures extremely low. If the grapes melt now, all the effort spent harvesting the grapes, and the risks taken by the winemaker in getting this far, will be in vain.

Ice wines are made from naturally frozen, ripe grapes. Once temperatures reach minus 7°C, the water inside the shriveled grape berries freezes, leaving a concentrated mix of natural sugars, acids and aromas. The frozen grapes are then pressed – a process which can take hours for the syrupy juice to ooze towards the tank. Finally, the alcoholic fermentation begins after a gentle warming of the juice, and the wait begins. Normal wine fermentation occurs on a scale of days, but ice wine can take months to properly ferment because of the high level of sugar in the juice.

read more


Silvia’s Wine Adventure – Part III (.5)

by Silvia
September 1, 2009


In this next account to Silvia’s season long wine adventure, she reports on the status of her vines after being away on vacation…

read part I ¦ read part II ¦ read part III

I missed the last lecture in Malans at the end of June…but hey, everyone needs a vacation…

We headed out during the last part of July to go check on my vines, and to see what had changed since my last visit. I expected to see fully grown vine branches with abundant grape bunches hanging below the leaves…especially after doing such a fine job in May of stripping away so many leaves from the young vine shoots.

I wasn’t disappointed.

read more

Silvia’s Wine Adventure – Part III

by Silvia
July 29, 2009


In this third part to Silvia’s season long wine adventure, she reports on the status of her vines, what she learned about vine maintenance and how to plant new grapes. read part I ¦ read part II

Spring finally arrived.

When the rain weather travels from the west toward Graubünden, there is a good chance the rain drops will never fall in Malans…or at least wait until the evening. This is the typical weather pattern in the Bündner Herrschaft and for once the weather did what was expected. Even though rain covered most of Switzerland, we were able to enjoy the warm spring sun.

A quick inspection of the vineyard told me what I needed to immediately know – our vines made it through the winter…and I did too. The vines looked strong and full of growth. The year’s early spring weather caused the vines to bud early, but the subsequent cold weather caused everything to return to normal by mid-May. But even so, some growers have compared the 2009 crop with 2003 and 2007, when everything was early.

As I walked the vineyard and came upon my row of vines, I noticed the few branches on each vine grew into bushes. There were also many little grape bunches visible…a joy to see.

Letting nature do what it wants means losing control of the vines and giving enemies a chance to attack. So after pruning and selecting two branches per vine in the winter, then binding them to the wire at the end of winter, it is now time to keep the vine’s new growth under control.     read more

Silvia’s Wine Adventure – Part II

by Silvia
May 11, 2009


In this second part to Silvia’s season long wine adventure, she reports on the status of her vines and how she learned to properly tie grape vines using a wire system. read part I

It was the middle of March and it was cold – very cold! I spent the day wondering where that hair dryer wind called the Föhn was when I really needed it?

Almost one month had past since my first introduction to the vines I would call my own for the year. I pruned away all of the unnecessary branches left from last year and readied my vines for a fresh start to 2009. The deep snow I encountered in February was gone, but I was faced with a new weather challenge, which made my work in the vines even colder – an icy arctic wind!

We spent the first ninety minutes in relative comfort learning all about lovely aphids, fungus and other ugly wine enemies. Then, it was time to face my vineyard row and accomplish the day’s task of bending the pruned grape branches and binding them onto the lowest wire. This system of keeping the branches horizontal and tied to a wire makes subsequent tasks during the year much easier – and safer for the vines. Need rows will allow a tractor to easily travel between the vines without hurting any branches or new growth.    read more

My Name is Teroldego

by Silvia
March 22, 2009


Ciao…My name is Teroldego. I am a red grape variety from northern Italy – just a bit north of Trento from the plateau named Teroldego Rotaliano. This is the only place I like to grow. My home is between very steep rock walls, two nice rivers and a warm climate with cooling alpine winds blowing down on me.

I am also the very first D.O.C. wine from this region…and naturally I am very well respected amongst all Italian wines.

I came to Zürich last week with a few of my red and white colleagues from Trentino. We stayed at the noble Dolder Grand Hotel…nice place, and presented ourselves in their new ballroom to numerous wine tasters, pros and some wine freaks. You would not believe some of the wine taster’s palates we ended up in – vero! But, I had a good time, and I am sure I left quite an impression with many tasters who have never experienced my charm.

I have an intense deep ruby color with an almost black core…it is the first thing people notice about me. I also have an intense and immensely fruity aroma. It is like…black cherry jam with maybe a hint of some raspberries. I am also quite spicy and some even say, I have the smell of black licorice. Sometimes I spend several months of wellness inside a small oak barrel, and I come away smelling like vanilla and toasted wood. This gives me an attractive complexity…no?   read more


Silvia’s Wine Adventure – Part I

by Silvia
March 13, 2009


Ever wonder what’s involved in growing grapes to produce wine? Silvia has. She has enrolled in a class this year, which teaches students the practical, hands-on side of growing grapes. This multi-part posting began in February with some basic pruning and goes on throughout the year until the fall harvest.

Pruning vines is one of the most important tasks of a vintner during the year. It is the foundational work for the upcoming growing season and subsequent harvest.

Vineyards can look a bit on the shaggy side by winter’s end– sort of like Struwwelpeter who desperately needs a haircut. In the same way, vines also need a trim…and the trick is to prune the correct branches in order to make weak vines stronger and stronger vines a bit…well…less strong. Of course, the goal of all of this pruning is to make the wine maker’s tasks easier while managing grape yield and vintage quality.

And so on, and so on… All of this and more I learned while studying for my WSET diploma. I even had to learn which hormone in the root system gives the vine a kick start after the soil temperature rises above 10 degrees centigrade. Yes, I know quite a bit about wine and how wine is made…but, that’s all theory, and now it’s time to move over to the practical side…   read more

Suuser Festivals

by Silvia
October 6, 2008

red grapes

Suuser festivals celebrate the first product from this year’s grape harvest!

Suuser is partially fermented grape juice, and it is the first chance to grab a taste of this year’s harvest.

Suuser – or also referred to as sauser – is fruity and sweet, with a refreshing acidity and appealing fizz. It is mostly foggy in appearance, but don’t let that put you off. The cloudy look is simply the result of the juice not being filtered before its bottled.

The best suuser is sold unpasteurized, which means the juice is still in active fermentation mode. This explains why the bottles are merely covered and not completely closed. During the fermentation process, yeasts produce carbon dioxide gases, which must somehow escape the confines of a bottle. If the bottle was completely closed, then the pressure from the mounting gasses would eventually cause a rather devastating explosion. Needless to say, it is best to use a bit of caution when keeping your suuser in the refrigerator – make sure to keep the top loosely covered!

The first suuser makes its way to Switzerland from Italy, where the grapes are harvested earlier than Switzerland. The Italian suuser are made from red grapes, and they are only available for about one month. The alcohol level seldom goes over the 2% level. It is a very light and fruity drink…and a great way to get rid of some of the world’s annual surplus of wine.

The traditional October suuser season is quite a tradition in Eastern Switzerland, Germany and Austria. Each country produces and sells their own variety of sauser (called Federweisser in Germany and Sturm in Austria), which usually involve some sort of festival. read more

Wine Tasting on Lake Zuerich

by Silvia
September 7, 2008


Weinpavillon 2008 in Obermeilen on the 13th and 14th of September 2008

The term terroir is frequently brought up within the world of wine, and talked about as if it were the great mysterious secret in defining wine. Everyone uses the term a bit differently, which only feeds its aura. You’ve probably heard it before when listening to wine experts explaining the subtle characteristics of a particular wine, ‘oh yes, the terroir of this vineyard has left a lasting mineral note laced with slate and chalky soil underneath the layers of complex fruit hidden between fine floral notes with just the right touch of French oak.’

Yes, terroir is a great term to use when you want to impress wine drinkers with less knowledge, and this little show is often fully displayed during public wine tastings.

So what does all this have to do with the upcoming Lake Zürich wine tasting?  read more

Graubuenden Wine Trail

by Silvia
August 16, 2008


Yes, it is possible to go for a long hike in Switzerland without feeling like a mountain-climbing ibex. In fact, you can even enjoy a few glasses of excellent wine along the way.

The Graubünden wine trail follows the Rhine valley from Chur to Fläsch. The well-marked trail guides you through the busy wine region (and the heart of Heidiland), moving from one small village to another while passing in front of spectacular rock walls and many of the region’s innovative wineries. You can begin anywhere you like and decide for yourself which villages to visit. Switzerland’s superb public transportation system will assure that you will never be far away from a bus or train station…so you can confidently enjoy a good sampling of wine without worrying about driving.

The vineyards of the Rhine valley make up the majority of the Canton’s viticulture surface. The heart of the wine-producing area forms the area known as the ‘Herrschaft,’ which includes the villages of Fläsch, Maienfeld, Jenins and Malans. Further to the south, the villages of Zizers, Trimmis and Chur make up the remaining portion of Rhine valley wine area.  read more