It is a general truism of Swiss wine that it is expensive and little seen outside of the country.
A more nuanced view is that around two thirds of the country's vineyards are in western, Francophone Switzerland, with most of the remainder in the Italian-speaking south.
The eastern corner of the country, bordering Liechtenstein, Austria and Germany via Bodensee / Lake Constance is, however, home to around 500ha of vineyards, most of which is Pinot Noir the remainder mainly Chardonnay. To put the size into context, it is comparable with Nuits-St-Georges.
The area styles itself Little Burgundy and is due east from that part of France, albeit at a much greater altitude - just over 500m, which puts it amongst the higher vineyards in Europe.
The region nestles in the foothills of the Swiss Alps - aside from altitude, key quality factors are:
- the soils; mostly a mixture of chalk and slate with some alluvial
- the river Rhine, which provides clay and salinity to the soils
- the southerly autumnal wind which extends the growing season and brings full ripeness to the grapes; grapes are generally picked in mid-late October
- the grapes themselves: the Burgundian Pinot clones are early ripening with small berries, whilst the Swiss clones are more disease resistant
At the Adank winery, based in Fläsch, viticulture is not fully organic as chemical fungicides are occasionally needed, but there is a general "respect for nature" approach with organic fertilisers, hand picking and no heavy machinery.
I met with Patrick Adank whose father planted the vineyard around 35 years ago and who still runs the winery - Patrick is studying oenology at Geisenheim and had come to Cambridge for a short English-language course.
Also there was PhD student and college buyer Davy Kurniawan whom I'd invited along as well.
Patrick explained to us that the winery produces just 35,000 - 40,000 bottles a year, a tiny production, and unsurprisingly even their entry-level wine is not cheap. Sales are mostly to restaurants, regional wine merchants and private customers, with small amounts exported to Austria and Germany.
Most of their wines are red and prices compare reasonably with Pinot from Burgundy and New Zealand (albeit before UK taxes and mark-ups).
The entry-level Pinot Noir is fermented in stainless steel with around 30% aged in oak and sells for around CHF 19.
The mid-level Pinot Noir Auslese ("selected") is aged 100% in old oak and sells for CHF 25, whilst the flagship Pinot Noir Barrique is barrel fermented, 30% with stems and aged for around 10 months in French oak, 50% new and is CHF 33 (around £20)
Perhaps its my finance background, but I rather like consistency and if getting bitten by the Pinot bug means falling in love with its elusive and unreliable nature, then I am so far (at least partially) immune; my car is a sensible German model and I like the fact that it starts every time I put the keys in - I would never swap it for an Italian supercar that requires frequent calls to the AA.
So, I am perhaps not the best judge of Pinot, but in any case, here are my thoughts.
Adank Fläscher Pinot Noir Barrique 2010
In the glass, bright yet quite dark for a Pinot, which I attribute to the effects of altitude.
On the nose, there is pleasant oak, toasty spice and mushroominess.
The palate shows lots of pure fruit expression - plum and raspberry. It feels clean, precise and elegant. The texture is soft with a long palate.
The finish is gentle and pleasant - overall, extremely elegant and balanced.
Definitely not Burgundian - no truffley earthiness here. Rather, as Davy observed, the style here is more New Zealand, and specifically Central Otago - technically well-made with good fruit expression.
Here's Davy's review of the wine - and I do like his description of it as pretty: http://vinoremus.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/weingut-hansruedi-adank.html
Adank - http://www.adank-weine.ch/