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Chasselas - Traminer / Heida - Marie-Therese Chappaz

Chasselas - Traminer / Heida - Marie-Therese Chappaz

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

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.

Origins and Connections

The origins of this grape are not without debate. It most likely began in north east France and south west Germany, though some believe that it is from Egypt and others, with no botanical proof, say that it is not from Vitis Vinifera but from Vitis Aminea or even other strains of Vitis.

Heida is the parent or grandparent of an impressive line-up of offspring, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Silvaner, Neuburger, Grüner Veltliner, Verdelho and Traminette, among many others. It is related to Pinot but the parent/offspring relationship cannot be defined.

In Switzerland

In Switzerland it is grown only in the Valais, principally in the vineyards around Visperterminen at an altitude of some 1100 metres above sea level, where the Föhn, a warm southerly wine, helps ripen the grapes. This is a truly old variety. The first written records date from 1586 when it was referred to as "Heyda", but it has been in use much longer. Indeed, the name Heida itself is local patois for "ancient" or "from an earlier time" and the French name "Païen" descends from "Pagan", i.e. before Christianity.

Plantings today are still limited with just some 15 hectares in commercial production. In the vineyard, Heida's grapes are small and compact and are yellowish and aromatic. It ripens mid-season, later than Chasselas, but before Petite Arvine. Heida makes, in my view, some of the best Valaisan white wines which can be complex and powerful, with exotic fruit flavours including quince. Heida ages quite well and should last 5 years without problems. They can also be versatile when food matching, going well with many vegetable dishes, cold meats and fish.

In Austria

Most Traminer in Austria is either Roter Traminer or Gewurtztraminer. There is, however, a rare grape called Gelber Traminer. Do not expect to find any Traminer on our website. Have a look at the details for each wine and see what it really is!


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