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Switzerland's best wines
The 'Mémoire des Vins Suisses' part 1

Mémoire des Vins Suisses (MDVS) is a group of 25 of Switzerland’s top wine producers selected by a group of four Swiss journalists (Andreas Keller, Stefan Keller, Martin Klichmann and Susanne Scholl). The idea is for the group to collaborate in organized tastings each year, where along with current releases, a museum stock of older vintages (the mémoire) will be built up and tasted critically. Indeed, one of the selection criteria was that the wines should have potential for development over a decade, and a cache of back vintages will be kept in Zurich for regular monitoring.

It’s the sort of project that has the potential to push forward quality in significant ways. The producers are committed to making this a long-term venture, and not just a publicity vehicle. Associated with the venture is a strong sense that the producers want to make wines with integrity—not just ‘made’ or fabricated wines which flatter in their youth. There’s a strong sense of authenticity to this project. One of the sub-goals is to make Swiss wines better known to foreigners, whose only perception of them is as neutral whites to wash down fondue with.

The project was birthed in 2002, and the association formed in 2004. I attended the second annual event, together with Sam Harrop as the foreign contingent, which combined tasting current release wines with those from the museum that were three years post-release. This was held in Morges, near Geneva. I left the UK fantastically early in order to get to Switzerland by breakfast time, and was met by Sam Harrop and Charles Rolaz (of Hammel, one of the MVDS committee) at the airport. We drove from Geneva along Lac Leman to a rather uninspiring looking industrial estate. Puzzling. This was a wine trip—what were we doing here?

But parked round the corner of a large warehouse was a helicopter. We suddenly began to get a little excited. Were we going up in it? It seemed so. What followed was simply magical. I’d never been in a helicopter before, so Sam generously let me ride up front next to the pilot, a trim, efficient looking Swiss guy. When you are being taken up in the air in a tiny helicopter, you want your pilot to an efficient, competent, together sort of person. 

After a quick pre-flight check, the engine started, the blades whizzed round, and we rose some 20 feet into the air. Then, in a rather dramatic gesture, the pilot dipped the nose and we whizzed forwards, skimming the ground for some 50 metres before rising up. It was a beautifully sunny winter’s day, and before long we were soaring above the industrial zone towards the towering mountains.

The goal was to get a wonderful aerial view of the vineyards of Chablais (part of the larger Vaud region), which looked spectacular in the focused, warm winter sunlight. But after this, we headed towards the mountains. Hmmm, these are high. And we’re just in a little helicopter. Talk about perspective. We headed up, and up, and then up some more. It was kind of fun, but a little scary, too. Eventually we went over the top of the peaks. It was a fantastic feeling, hovering just a couple of dozen metres over these pristine slopes. Then we descended, feeling very lucky and grateful to have had this unexpected experience.

Then we headed off to lunch, which was raclette, before heading to Morges for the serious business of tasting wine. The first event was a tasting open to the public, which allowed each MVDS producer to present three of their wines. That will be covered in part two of this miniseries.

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