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Johannisberg / Sylvaner

Johannisberg / Sylvaner

Drink with Fondue: crisp and clear white wine

In Switzerland we traditionally drink crisp white Chasselas, black tea (no milk), and kirsch with cheese fondue. It needs to be dry and very clean to cut through the cheese.

For variety, we might go for Doral, Heida, or Johannisberg, but much complexity can be lost with all the cheese. I still feel Chasselas is the best as much of its complexity is in the mouthfeel not the nose.

In Savoie they drink Jacquere for the same reason, as well as Altesse.

For people accustomed to more acidity in their white wine, Chasselas can feel "not enough" with Fondue. The Savoie wines will work better for you, or some of the Aosta or Alto Adige wines.

Sylvaner (or Silvaner), known in Switzerland as Johannisberg, is an ancient variety from Eastern Europe, introduced into Valais at the start of the Twentieth Century.

When produced with high yields, Sylvaner can produce a bland and uninteresting wine, hence its lack of popularity for growers outside Europe. When yields are controlled, however, Sylvaner creates a crisp, minerally, flint-scented wine.

Above all, Sylvaner makes a sensational white wine for food. When young, they are also a much enjoyed Aperitif wine. Forget beer, have a Johannis!

Despite originating in Austria, the bulk of the world’s planting of Sylvaner is in Germany. France has over a thousand hectares in Alsace and there are much smaller plantings throughout Europe. Outside Europe, very little Sylvaner exists with tiny amounts in New Zealand, Canada and the USA.

Sylvaner is a natural cross between Savagnin (Traminer) and Österreichisch Weiß, a rare grape from Vienna, and had existed for more than 500 years.

Talking of years, Johannisberg can age magnificently! I have drank one from the 40s and it was fresh, rich, complex.

But should you read old texts about wine, please be aware that before our more rigorous era, Johannisberg was often a name for Riesling, and Riesling a name for Sylvaner...

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  • Johannisberg de Chamoson Cave Jean Rene Germanier

    Starting at: £33.90

    Best Johannisberg in 2016, a great winter aperitif

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