More Swiss Surprises

Among the other noteworthy wines I discovered in the Valais were a lively "Sans Culotte" fendant de sion and a complex, smoky, mourvedre-like humagne rouge at Charles Bonvin Fils (the Valais's oldest winery, founded in 1858), in Sion; an elegant dole labeled simply Sion at Varone (which shares facilities with Bonvin); and, from the Provins Valais cooperative, which produces a quarter of the wine in the Valais and fully 10 percent of that in Switzerland, an attractive Pierrafeu fendant; a pine and resin-scented 1994 amigne; and a tannic, concentrated, black cherry-flavored '93 cornalin. In La Cote, the subregion of the Vaud hugging the lake between Geneva and Lausanne, I visited the massive Uvavins Morges cooperative, whose 210 different wines include agreeable whites from Nyon and Morges. I also spent time at Henri Badoux, in Chablais (the subregion southeast of the lake)—whose famous "lizard bottle" of Les Murailles aigle has been imported into the U.S. since 1961. It is dry and steely and, frankly, not my favorite chasselas—but half a dozen vintages of Badoux's Jeu du Roy pinot gris made me sit up and take notice. These are remarkably complex, sturdy, self-confident wines, fragrant and thick with flavor. The oldest I tasted, from 1990, was truly memorable—a luminous golden color, with a complex flower-and-fruit bouquet, an almost meaty roundness, and a positively sumptuous weave of flavors. These don't currently reach the U.S., alas—and would cost $50 or $60 a bottle if they did. They're almost worth it.