Petite Arvine - Traminer / Heida - Marie-Therese Chappaz
Marie-Therese Chappaz' fantastic wines
Petite Arvine, a white grape, is a long established Valaisan grape variety and is one of the varieties that makes the Valais so very interesting. It is considered by many to be the quintessential Valaisan white wine grape.
When vinified dry, the wine can be very classy with excellent structure, a bouquet including aromas of grapefruit, wisteria, rhubarb and honey, a palate of concentrated fruit balanced with good acidity and sometimes a saline note on the finish.
It ages well and because of these qualities, is very popular and is widely grown in the Valais, where there are today some 115 hectares in various sites along the valley from Sion to Martigny.
The Petite Arvine can be fussy in the vineyard being frost-sensitive and requiring quite a lot of water thus limiting the sites which are suitable. Yields are quite low by Swiss standards, from 0.5 to 0.7 litres per square metre.
Opinion is divided over its origins. It is widely believed to have originated from the region of Martigny, although some think it originates in the Aosta valley in Italy from where it arrived in Valais towards the end of the Middle Ages. Officially, it is of "unknown origin". This of course, applies to its parentage, as recent DNA tests have been unable to reveal anything to identify any close relationships at all.
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 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.
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!