Gwäss, or Gouais Blanc, can easily be called the ancestral Casanova grape. It is one of a few grape varieties that seem to appear in the family or just about every interesting variety out there. And until not that long ago, it'd been lost. And it was rescue, as these things go, by stubborn Swiss mountain winemakers.
Gwäss is indeed a rare grape. In 1994 a mere 1.35 hectares were cultivated commercially in the Valais. Gwäss is the name given in Haut-Valais, Switzerland, for Gouais Blanc, also known as Président in France. Confusingly, it has a second Valasian name – Noir Valais.
Light yellow in colour, it has a lemon scented nose with grapefruit and green apple on the palate with some herbal notes and potentially high levels of acidity. It can age very well and the maturity acts to soften the acidity. Chanton’s 1991 is a particularly good example. Unfortunately, you will have to visit their vineyard to beg a sample!
Gwäss is a white grape variety that is believed to have originated in Croatia and which is important as the ancestor of many modern French and German wine varieties. This may have been the grape given to the Gauls by Probus (Roman Emperor 276-282), who overturned Domitian's decree banning grape growing north of the Alps. By the Middle Ages it was the most widely grown white grape in north east France and in central Europe. Gouais blanc was the grape of the peasantry - indeed the name Gouais derives from the old French ‘gou’, a term of derision befitting its traditional status as the grape of the peasants. Normally growing on flat land next to the better slopes where the nobility grew Pinot.
Having been widely grown in proximity to Pinot, the two varieties had many opportunities to cross and Gwäss is the parent to over eighty other varieties, the better known of which are modern day Chardonnay, Aligoté, Auxerrois, Gamay, Colombard and Riesling. The name Gwäss was first recorded in 1823. It's a vigorous high-yielding variety and traditionally produced wines with high acidity. Some stories tell that the Gwäss vines were planted around the edges of fields with other vines to protect them from thieves, the grapes being so acidic it put them off!
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We primarily drink reds so my expectations weren't high, but it was amazing! I bought the wine for it's sentimental value, but now I'm lamenting the fact I didn't buy more when given the opportunity. I want to say Thank You once again for the amazing service. It's something that we don't experience enough of in our current world.
Thank you for following up. I have been very happy with the wines so far. There were some I did not like, but this was a matter of taste, rather than wine quality. I never knew much about Austrian wines before and I ordered some just to try them, but have been really impressed and have some new favourites like Zweigelt and Weissburgunder. I had Pinot Bianco before, but have never found it notable, while the Weissburgunder was amazing. I liked the Austrian Riesling, even though it was cheaper than relevant German wine and the Julienas Gamay was so nice. Overall I have been very happy quality and value and will order again.
It was the first time I have ordered from Alpine Wines and I just wanted to say that I found the unexpected follow-up call a very nice touch. I am also pleased to report that it was the winning wine for our Austrian evening at our very informal wine club!