Cabernet Franc - Chasselas - Marie-Therese Chappaz
I have a huge soft spot for Cabernet Franc.
It has many facets but is best known for pepper and tobacco characteristics.
Chasselas is the typical white wine in Switzerland. If you've been for drinks on a terrace on lake Geneva, in Zurich or in a ski resort, chances are you were offered Chasselas.
Marie-Therese Chappaz' fantastic wines
Cabernet Franc is the parent of Cabernet Sauvignon (with Sauvignon Blanc) and also a parent of Merlot.
Cabernet Franc is often looked down on in favour of Cabernet Sauvignon, but this is an unfair asessment, based purely on availability. Cabernet Franc can be less generous than "CabSav" and so is less planted, and so people rarely get to taste it solo.
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"Fendant" is the name used now in the Valais for Chasselas-based wines. It is derived from the French verb "fendre", meaning "to split", which is exactly what the golden Chasselas grape does if squeezed between thumb and forefinger, rather than becoming squashed.
A typical Fendant is fresh and fruity, with a refreshing prickle. It will normally be quite dry, with delicate fruit and racy mineral flavours, often with hints of smoke and gunflint on the nose and an exquisite bitterness on the finish.
The Chasselas grape used for Fendant is highly expressive of terroir and there are some quite notable differences between wines grown in different parts of the Valais. Wines from around Sion are fresh and rich, those from Ardon and Vétroz stimulatingly dry while those from Martigny have a fragrant bouquet. Perhaps the best come from the areas around Sierre, Chamoson and Saillon, which combine fruit and an exquisite bitterness on the finish. Good examples age well, and after 5 years or so will lose their youthful character and can develop complex nutty and honeyed flavours.
Ideally, drink a bottle of Fendant on the day you open it (not much of a hardship!). It will keep in the fridge for a day or two once opened, but will lose the slight C02 prickle, an integral part of the character of the wine.
Although the Chasselas’ history is a controversial subject, it is supposed to be one of the most ancient grape varieties cultivated by man. Theories place its origins in the Middle East, in Egypt and in France. However, with DNA testing being able to identify the lack of Chasselas in certain areas, it is generally accepted that it comes from Switzerland by the shores of Lake Geneva. Today, the Chasselas is the most widespread vine in Switzerland. Its basically neutral character allows its wines to express fully the differences in soil compositions and the diversity of climatic conditions. From there comes the enormous variety of Chasselas wines found in the French-speaking area of Switzerland, which constitutes its principal ground.