There are more than 50 grape varieties are planted in the Valais! That’s a very big number for such a small wine region.
Some of them were born or created there. The Swiss love to enrich their own little collection of grape crossings. Grapes like Garanoir and Diolinoir were created at Changins Insitute and to my knowledge are only found in Switzerland.
Some grapes “traveled” there. Chasselas crossed over from the shores of Lac Leman and Cornalin crossed the Pass of Saint Bernard from the Italian side of the Alps. It found its home in the warmer, south-facing vineyards of the Valais and has become the region’s star variety.
Every time a newcomer grape arrives, the first thing the locals do is to change its name. This can become very confusing for us outsiders but absolutely necessary for the variety’s integration. So 𝗖𝗵𝗮𝘀𝘀𝗲𝗹𝗮𝘀 became 𝗙𝗲𝗻𝗱𝗮𝗻𝘁, 𝗖𝗼𝗿𝗻𝗮𝗹𝗶𝗻 became 𝗥𝗼𝘂𝗴𝗲 𝗱𝘂 𝗣𝗮𝘆𝘀 and 𝗠𝗮𝗿𝘀𝗮𝗻𝗻𝗲, part of the Northern Rhone duo Marsanne and Rousanne, became Ermitage. In Marsanne’s case, its adopted Valaisan name is not at all unrelated. The grape was born in the area of Tain L’Hermitage, in the Cotes du Rhone appellation and that’s where the name Ermitage comes from. As a grape, Ermitage/Marsanne in its Alpine version, gives structured, full-bodied wines with subtle wild strawberry and honey aromas.
We will have the opportunity to discover and taste an Ermitage next Thursday 25 February at the Virtual Meet the Winemaker Online Tasting with Caprice du Temps.