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Chasselas : A 20th century speciality ?



Three years ago, the death certificate of Chasselas wasn’t signed yet but, at its bedside, the people talked about it like a dying patient. « too bland, too neutral, unable to seduce either youngs or women, small gastronomic potential, no international acknowledgement, a reputation of minor wine » the people murmured. Nobody would have bet on this variety just good enough to give wine to put in fondue. And still, some stubborn winemakers refused to see things that way. They kept their Chasselas, and defended it. Today, times seems to prove they were right.


A serie of events seems to show that the situation is evolving in a positive way. In Neuchâtel, the non-filtered slowly establishes its reputation. Lavaux, historical cradle of the Luzannois, has recently been listed among the Unesco World Heritage sites (although the quality of its wines wasn’t the main criteria, let’s not quibble). Wine tastings – often restricted to professionals- have shown that the grape owns an important ageing potential. In Valais, a Fendant from Domaine des Muses won a gold medal at Nobilis 2006 (the first in 10 years for this variety). In that same canton, a wine firm (Gilliard) rose the price of the wine harvest for Chasselas. This idea should be followed medium-term by the other firms in the area.


Isolated, these facts have no real interest. Put together, they show that the rumours heard in the vineyards about a future shortage in Chasselas have real grounds. The actual interest in this grape can be explained by two main reasons : Those who produced bad quality Fendant are now producing bad quality Petite Arvine and the others keep on producing great Chasselas. Consequently the quality rose while the quantities produced diminished. However, if the most famous of the Swiss white wines knows an obvious surge in popularity it’s not yet a tsunami by the consumers.


Slowly loosing its reputation of « blanc à fondue », our grape still hasn’t got, and by far, the aura it deserves. In order for Chasselas to claim its place at the top of the great varieties, its lovers need to give it the means to acquire a real charisma by developing assets which are nowadays neglected. To the question « which assets ? » I see at least three answers : The ageing potential of some vintages that allows it to reach summits and to compete at an international level. The range of wines given by the grape suffices to satisfy almost all types of buyers. Trough blending it can give birth to less traditional wines, more appealing for the new consumers. A perfect example of this new trend is the Swiss Sushi Wine from Domaine du Daley (90% Chasselas blended with Chardonnay and Sauvignon) that was elected the best Vaud Chasselas in 2006.



Alexandre Truffer
Translated by Réjane Piatti
© RomanDuVin.ch 2005


[27/08/2010]


Chasselas, deposed king or new-born star ?
Practical information
Greatness and decline of Fendant
The founding myths of Chasselas


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