|Domaine des Muses sweeps awards in Valais
Robert Taramarcaz, Domaine des Muses, Sierre, Valais
The first I heard of Robert Taramarcaz was when this young newcomer to Valais winemaking received warm applause and an evening of plaudits from his fellow winemakers at the 2007 Swiss wine awards, where his Chasselas was named the best of the year. Chasselas is Switzerland’s iconic white wine, made by most producers, so for a relative newbie to take the award was startling. So was the wine: a beautiful crisp wine that was remarkable for a range of notes, showing off the potential of what is too often a mundane aperitif wine.
He was not entirely a newcomer, having been raised in Valais. He had just taken over his parents’ small winery in Sierre, with the domain itself in nearby Grange, alongside the Rhone. But he had been off at school in Burgundy, had travelled, with six months learning about wine in New Zealand, and his award-winning wine was some of the first he had produced as the new winemaker at Domaine des Muses. It was clear he had ideas of his own and real passion for his metier.
A visit in 2008 to Taramarcaz’s winery, Domaine des Muses, near Sierre, made it clear that this was not a one-off top of the line wine. “A glass of poetry” is the domain’s tag line and it suits. These are wines with music in them. I have found it very easy to keep returning to them, just as we do to our favourite music.
His specialty from the start has been sweet wines. He earned a Master’s degree in oenology from the University Institute of Vines and Wine in Dijon with research and a thesis on sweet wines. The care needed to create these carries over to his entire range of wines, which includes more than 20 wines.
But his travels abroad, and his continuing closeness to Burgundy’s winemakers, convinced him that one of Switzerland’s winemaking strengths is its traditions. He early on opted to make excellent Chasselas wines that are dry, highlighting the fresh, mineral side of these wines, which immediately bring to mind the Swiss Alps and Rhone that cuts a vine-trimmed Alpine valley.
My personal favourites are his “Seduction” line of three sweet wines, with the golden, rich Polymnie the perfect gift wine or bottle for the end of an evening, around a fire with friends. His Fendant Reserve is a beautiful Chasselas to have with a meal, showing that his award in 2007 was well-founded, as he continues to turn out a line of excellent Fendants. My own preference: Fendant from the Tradition line, CHF20 a bottle.
Domaine des Muses, near the Rhone, beneath Alpine peaks
Taramarcaz’s sweep of several top Swiss wine awards in 2009 came as no surprise, then. This young producer’s work has clearly been evolving in the right direction. Two of his Chasselas wines placed first and third at the Swiss-wide selection, the Grand Prix du Vin Suisse, and an astonishing 10 of his wines won silver or the top gold stars at the Sélection des vins du Valais 2009. In all, he has gathered 17 awards from the Valais competition alone in just two years.
His Cornalin was given gold at the Valais competition in 2008. Cornalin is, at the best of times, a difficult wine to produce, one that requires both excellent exposure and a finely-tuned understanding of the grape by the winemaker. Climatic conditions are important and it can’t be produced some years. When all of the elements comes together it is an exceptionally beautiful wine.
Taramarcaz, like other producers in the region, is excited about 2009. It has already been declared by the federal agriculture department, which tracks the harvest and wines as they develop, an exceptional year. Some of us can’t wait to see what these grapes, in the hands of a master winemaker like Taramarcaz, will give, in the bottle.
The winery: Domaine des Muses (tasting by appointment, CHF15 per person), Tel: +41 27 455 7309 and +41 76 321 7667Posted by Ellen Wallace on 3rd February 2010 on Geneva Lunch