The Rèze (or Resi) grape is alongside the Heida and Humagne Blanche - one of the oldest white grape varieties still grown in the Valais and is extraordinarily rare. Once, Rèze was grown widely here, but in more recent times has suffered serious decline with less than a hectare remaining in commercial production, around Sierre and in the alpine vineyards of Visperterminen. Various factors have conspired to cause this - it's hard to grow, has limited yield and lesser examples can be thin, acidic and uninspiring.
A pale lemon yellow, the wine has a rich bouquet of citrus and herbs and a good amount of gooseberry and green apple. On the palate, smooth, with spice, resin and bitter almonds, with good acidity. Good length.
Much of the production from around Sierre is used to make a base wine for the sherry-like Vin des Glaciers, a highly sought after rarity.
At a recent tasting, a Swiss born winemaker who has lived and worked in wine there all his life, told us that the wine he had just tasted was only the second time ever that he had had the chance to taste this grape.
These ancient variety white wines improve with age so we recommend buying the oldest vintage available, especially if the wine is for a tasting.
With around 2 hectares in production, Josef-Marie Chanton remains the saviour of yet another otherwise extinct variety.
Recent DNA profiling has identified Blanc de Maurienne as being Rèze and this grape is named after the valley in Savoie where a few vines still exist. This is one possible origin of the grape. Another is that it comes from northern Italy and the name is a derivative of the Latin "Raetica" which was the most widespread white grape in that area during the Roman era.
This rare grape has lineage connections with a number of grapes from different regions: Diolle and Grosse Arvine from Switzerland and Cascarolo Bianco and Nosiola from Italy amongst them.