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.
Jean-René Germanier is regarded by many as one of Switzerland’s top wine producers.
Founded in 1886, making it one of the oldest Swiss wineries, this family owned company is now headed by 3rd generation Jean-René and his nephew Gilles Besse.
Today they continue the family tradition of wines and spirits with the same passionate and untiring pursuit of quality. They produce wines that have earned them a place alongside the best winemakers in Switzerland while devoting their efforts in particular to the native varieties and wines characteristic of the unique terroir of the Valais.
The boutique winery produces unique, award-winning wines such as Cayas, Mitis and Cornalin Champmarais which are enjoyed at the best tables in Europe.
With an average age of 35 years the vineyards themselves guarantee ample structure in the bottle.
"We believe that the cultivation of vineyards must be conducted in such a way as to produce the best possible grapes with maximum respect for the environment. For this reason we were among those who pioneered methods of integrated production, which guarantee carefully moderated use of chemical agents by integrating natural factors. The spider mite for example, is controlled by means of its natural enemy, the typhlodrome mite. Today we are once again in the vanguard of methods introduced to better safeguard the environment through practices such as the greening of vineyards, as part of a transition entirely to certified organic production. We believe this is one of the most important steps towards a sustainable viticulture for the future."
From 1896 onwards when he harvested his first vintage at Balavaud, Urbain Germanier devoted his life to his vineyards. Later, the torch passed to his three sons, Francis, Paul and Charles whose wines claimed their place among the premiers crus, the best growths of the Valais.
Around 1940 Francis Germanier decided to introduce a table pear variety to the plains of the Rhône valley called Williams, or Williams Bon Chrétien after the English nurseryman who discovered it. In 1945 a severe storm threw the entire harvest to the ground. Faced with this disaster Francis decided to distill the fruit. The resultant eau-de-vie proved extraordinarily aromatic and harmonious. The Bon Père William was born and rapidly established itself as one of the typical specialities of the canton, inseparable from the legendary spectacle of the pear in the bottle. The production of spirits became for many years the most important activity of the family domaine until winemaking returned to predominance in the course of the 1980s.
"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.