Friday, July 23, 2010

The Wines of Weingut Saxer, a Winemaker in the German-speaking part of Switzerland

The Wines of Weingut Saxer, a Winemaker in the German-speaking part of Switzerland

I had the opportunity to participate – with the Weinfreunde Hochheim - in a dream tasting at Weingut Saxer in the German speaking part of Switzerland – at a long dinner table in the Saxer vineyards.

Wine Producer Switzerland

Switzerland is a small wine producer with about 15 000 hectares of vineyards. This is about 15 percent of Germany’s total winegrowing area and a bit more than 1 percent of that of Spain. Only less than 2% of the wine is exported, mainly to Germany.

Switzerland's particular situation - in between four wine-producing nations (France, Italy, Germany and Austria) and itself divided into four different areas with different languages and traditions - has resulted in an extreme diversity of its wines, although wine is mainly produced in the French part of Switzerland, in the cantons of Geneva, Neuchâtel, Ticino, Valais and Vaud.

Picture: The Wine Regions of Switzerland

Switzerland has an extensive range of grape varieties. Among the white grapes, the Chasselas is the most widespread. Müller-Thurgau, cultivated above all in the German speaking part of Switzerland, and Sylvaner are also popular. The main red grape varieties are Pinot Noir, which can be found in all the wine-producing regions of Switzerland, and Gamay, which predominates in the Valais; Merlot has found a second home in the Italian speaking part of Switzerland, the Ticino. In addition, there are 40 or so indigenous grapes, all of them practically unknown anywhere else in the world.

German Switzerland

The Saxer Estate is located in the German part of Switzerland, which comprises 17 cantons. Wine is produced in each of the 17 cantons, although the quantities are sometimes small and the vineyards can be widely scattered. The unity of the region comes from its shared Swiss-German traditions.

The red grape varieties dominate. One quarter of the vineyard area is planted with Pinot Noir. The white grape varieties, often Müller-Thurgau, only cover 25% of the wine-growing area.

The Saxer Estate

The Saxer family has a long tradition in the village of Nussbaumen in Thurgau. The Saxers have always been involved with winemaking, but also with agriculture and dairy farming. With the establishment of a wine cellar in 1974 by Alfred and Verena Saxer, viticulture and winemaking moved to the center.

Since 2002, the management has been transferred entirely to the siblings Freddie and Madeleine Saxer. Freddie Saxer takes the lead in terms of viticulture and winemaking; Madeleine Saxer takes the lead in terms of administration and sales. Parents Alfred and Verena are still involved in all aspects of the winery.

Pictures: Weingut Saxer

The Saxer Estate is 500 meters above sea level, which is quite high. They cultivate about 8 hectares, which translates into about 80.000 bottles per year. Most of the wine is sold at the premise directly to the consumer.

The Saxer Wine Portfolio

The Saxer’s wine portfolio consists of about 20 wines. 8 of them are white wines, all of them dry. I liked very much the 2009 Nussbaumen Mueller-Thurgau for SFr 13.30, the Saxer’s white flagship wine; it was clean, crips and fruity with a long finish. The grape variety Mueller Thurgau was created in the 1800 by the Swiss Hermann Mueller from the canton Thurgau - hence the name - in Geisenheim, Germany. The Saxers have also started to grow Gruener Veltliner, which is a mainstream grape variety in neighboring Austria, but not much known in Switzerland. Alfred Saxer bought the vines from his colleague Bruendlmayer in the Kamptal area in Austria a few years ago.

Among the 12 red wines, Pinot Noir dominates. But I could also detect some Regent and Dornfedler in blends. The 2008 Erdwein Pinot Noir stood out; this wine was stored two meters below surface in a 225 liter barrique barrel for a year before releasing the wine. The story is that in the 30-years war the winemakers burried their wine barrels in the ground to hide the wine from the soldiers. When they unburried and consumed the wine, they found Erdwein had added flavors and tasted very good. 3 Saxer barrique barrels are in the ground right now. The Erdwein costs SFr 32.

The wine portfolio is complemented by a sweet Pinot Noir wine, a rose wine and a sparkler, brut. The Saxers also produce brandies from various fruits.

The Wine tasting

The Hochheimer Weinfreunde were able to taste the wonderful Saxer wines in an extraordinary setting: At a long dinner table right in the middle of the Saxer vineyards in the later afternoon.

Pictures: The Wine Tasting in the Saxer Vineyard

Picture: Christian G.E.Schiller with Alfred and Madeleine Saxer

Weingut Saxer
Nussbaumen, Switzerland

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