Thursday, January 17, 2008

Wine Education in Wallis, Switzerland

When I tell friends sometimes how nice the Philippines is and so they should go and visit, one of the first things they would ask me is if we have wine. A lot of them would sound so disappointed when I say that we don't have wine in the Philippines. We have no grape, how can we produce wine? It doesn't mean we are uncultured, all it means is that we have no grapes.
Arriving in Switzerland 4 years ago from my grapeless country, I had no idea about wine. I improved considerably since then but in general I just have only 1 rule, if I like it, I like it and if I don't like it, I don't. Anyway, I am not a wine expert (and I will never be) but I can taste the difference between a 4 sfr and a 30 sfr bottle but not really between a 30 sfr and 100 sfr bottle. I can taste the difference between a Bourgogne, a Bordeaux, and a Swiss wine from Wallis most of the time. I understand that I need to twirl red wine in my glass so the wine gets aerated so I can smell it's aroma. I refuse to gargle it in my mouth like a mouthwash in public. I get it that there is a high culture behind wine and wine making but honestly for the life of me, I still don't get why people need to be so snooty about it. I have a strange feeling that most of the time people just pretend to get it so as not to be labeled as uncultured. I asked a friend once who knows about wine why is it that people don't just drink coca cola when most of the time anyway a good wine taste like coca cola? Okay, I guess no one will really agree with me about my coca cola theory because in Europe in general coca cola is the symbol of non-culture.
Anyway, a year ago as part of my wine education, we went to Maurice Gay, a winery in Chamoson, Wallis, Switzerland. The Romans brought grapes to Wallis a long long time ago and from then on the locals have been making wine. We learned that the Wallis is a special place for wine because of its micro climate. Nowhere else can multiple varieties (60 varieties) of grape be planted together in the same area as in Wallis. One can also find very old varieties such as Amigne, Cornalin, Heida, Humagne Blanche, and Petite Arvine. We saw how they produce wine from when they crush the grapes to when they age it inside oak barrels. The best part of course is at the end of the tour when we tasted all their wines with our host generously opening bottle after bottle for us.

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