Living so close to Italy and France, one might wonder why I would drink wine from anywhere else. One reason: I live in a country which has a thriving wine production industry. Even though their exportation appears limited to “close to home”, I have been frequently delighted and surprised by my experiences. So this year, I am on a mission to explore the Swiss Wine community in more depth and practice pairing my discoveries with my culinary experiments.
In November, I had the good fortune to be invited on a wine tasting excursion in La Sarraz, Vaud, my first ever in Switzerland, where I was introduced to Phusis. The “dégustaion” was different than my California experiences in that we were welcomed to the home of the wine maker! Guests gathered around wooden tables and benches in the cozy salon of a restored farmhouse. The weather was cool and cloudy, but the mood inside was warm and welcoming.
Winemaker, Steve Bettschen, moved among his guests pouring and explaining his wine making philosophy. Two of the wines from the 2011 tasting list were particularly interesting to me:
- Phusis 4.4 Rouge – Sensine – 2010
- Phusis 3.2 Arvine – Sensine – Vielle Vigne -2009
Both of these beauties come from a small 26 acres vineyard in Sensine (Conthey, Valais) not far from Sion at an elevation of approximately 560-600meters . The Petite Arvine old vines, planted in 1955, comprise a majority of this vineyard. The rest is a mix of Humagne Rouge, Gamay, Pinot Noir and Chasselas (Fendant) all planted between 1980 and 2000. Wine lover though I may be, I am not a connoisseur. Nevertheless, I was immediately captivated by the Arvine. The winemaker’s notes** describe this golden sweetheart as follows:
- Color/Appearance: pale yellow with green reflection.
- Nose: Evokes the Orient with with notes of sandalwood, orange, spiced bread and nougat; almond paste and vanilla bourbon
- Mouth: Soft and full-bodied followed by an evolution large and generous, but dry ( no residual sugar). The finish is marked by the intense notion of minerals. A wine concentrated and sensual.
The Phusis 3.2 Arvine remained at the top of my list throughout the tasting. When I arrived at the Phusis 4.4 Rouge, I was equally enamored: first by its appearance and then by its bouquet … This royal ruby bares the following winemaker’s notes**
- Color/Appearance: Beautiful dark cherry
- Nose: A little reserved, at first, the bouquet opens to dark ripe berries, graphite, spices and oak.
- Mouth: Delicate at first taste, but evolves in texture and intensity. The tannins and minerals encourage the wine to be stored for several months before tasting (August 2011).
Steve Bettschen provides food paring recommendations for each of these wines. Risotto with white truffles is highlighted as a compliment to the Arvine and a guinea-fowl or grilled duck with the Red. Whereas I appreciate “pairing notes”, I like to play with flavors. My first experiment led me to create the following ensemble: (The recipes provided at the end for your enjoyment):
- Phusis 3.2 Arvine with Butternut Squash Risotto
- Phusis 4.4 Rouge with a Carrot-Fennel Soup
The Arvine went wonderfully with the Risotto, a near perfect pairing However, one might imagine that a Carrot-Fennel soup would wilt under the bold fruit and tannins of the Phusis Rouge, but not so. The rich vegetable base and crème fraîche provided an earthy, rich flavor. The levity, provided by the hint of lime and fennel, aroused and cleansed the palate accentuating the complexity of the wine with each sip.
I have enjoyed both of these wines on several occasions and each time I have been as pleased as the time before it. I look forward to seeing how Phusis evolves and invite you to contact Steve Bettschen at Phusis to learn more about future “dégustation” and to give these wines a try.
** Translated to the best of my ability from the eloquent descriptions provided in French by Steve Bettschen