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Chasselas - Blauer Portugieser

Chasselas - Blauer Portugieser

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.


For most winemakers in Austria, Blauer Portugieser is a filler, grape, used in blends or for house wines. We don't buy these, we buy from people who give the grape the same attention as the more popular grapes and make delicious wines. Like a lot of "neglected" grapes, it is simply lack of attention in planting or winemaking that makes so many of the wines simple. Just like Swiss Chasselas, Blauer Portugieser vines give prolific yields and has low acidity. Just like Swiss Chasselas, Portugieser wines were meant to be drunk in their youth and considered not suited to long-term cellaring. And - no surprise here - just as Swiss Chasselas there's no reason they cannot age magnificently with proper winemaking, or make truly impressive wines. A medium ruby colour with a fruity, grape juice kind of nose. There are also some aromas of plum and red cherry. On the palate, the wine is medium bodied with low tannins and with moderately low acidity. On the palate, it tastes of grape with some cherry and raspberry fruit. Very smooth.

Chasselas makes low acidity creamy yet interesting wines. This low acidity makes it very easy to drink and it also is a white wine that "red wine only" drinkers can love.

A highly flexible wine, Chasselas works well both as an apéritif and with food - a wine for all circumstances.

A rather neutral wine, the Chasselas grape is highly expressive of terroir. The Chasselas from Geneva tend to be fruitier, those from Neuchatel fresher (try "Goutte d'Or"). La Cote is the "goldilocks" classic Chasselas, Lavaux produces bigger and more mineral Chasselas and in Valais Fendant, fruity comes back but with a flintiness and that typical prickle.

In most cantons people simply use the name of the town the wine is from - names like "Féchy", "Dézaley", "Yvorne" and "Mont sur Rolle", and people automatically know it is Chasselas and what to expect. In Valais, they will always call it Fendant

Our most popular Chasselas are the Mont sur Rolle from Maison Blanche, the classic Aigle les Murailles and our Fendant.

Take your pick.

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Fendant

"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.

History

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.

Although popular for its generous harvests, the variety has poor disease resistance (mildew and grey rot are a particular concern) and requires careful maintenance in the vineyard to make good wine.

Despite the suggestion of the grape's name of having a Portuguese origin, ampelographers have uncovered little evidence to suggest that this is the case. It is often said that the Austrian, Johann von Fries, brought it from Oporto to his estates near Voslau in 1772. Until recently and for that reason, it was called Kékoportó in Hungary. There is evidence to indicate that by the 19th century, the grape was widely established in Austria and that it was then that cuttings were brought to Germany.

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