Marc Almert Selection III
Recommendations from the ASI Best Sommelier of the World 2019
There are a few unifying threads that run through this entire collection of wines. They are all wines that inspire me and have touched my heart in the past year. Wines that have stopped me in my tracks by surprising me. Personalities that have made an impression on me. Places that we can finally visit more often again.
Many of the wineries that I am presenting to you here have been in the hands of the same family for many generations, rather like Baur au Lac Vins, in fact. Others are only just starting to come into their own and can therefore legitimately be described as discoveries. The vast majority of them use cultivation methods based on organic or biodynamic principles, in line with a trend which I welcome with open arms. And, of course, indigenous grape varieties have also played their part, as have my own personal travels and experiences.
TARLANT BRUT RÉSERVE
"Œuilly" – If you want to pronounce the name of this village in the Vallée de la Marne properly, you should ideally loosen up your tongue with a little champagne first. 😉 It would be hard to imagine the winemaker's champagne scene without this brother-and-sister team of Melanie and Benoît Tarlant, who call this village their home. Although their family history dates back to the year 1687, things have only really taken off for them in recent decades, during which time, as organic pioneers who have determinedly set about the separate development of forty self-managed plots, they have won over wine taster after wine taster – including yours truly. This cuvée may be billed as the "introduction" to the house but it bears the unmistakable hallmarks of their style: light maturation in wood of the base wine, extended yeast fermentation, completely dry, multi-layered and challenging in the best sense of the word – one for true lovers of champagne.
Tarlant Brut Réserve
Tarlant, Champagne, France
(Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir)
60117 / 75 cl / CHF 52.-ORDER HERE
NICOLAS FEUILLATTE PALMES D’OR BRUT
2008 was an outstanding year for champagne! Such desirable weather conditions only come about once or twice per decade in the Champagne region. Many champagne producers have accordingly taken their time to allow the product to mature in the bottle before launching their prestige cuvée onto the market. The same applies to Nicolas Feuillatte and their elite cuvée of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay; it wasn't until the summer of 2021 that I was able to uncork the very first bottle on Swiss soil, in the picturesque setting of the Lenk Valley. And I was captivated on the spot, the experience was well worth the wait: the bouquet is very dense, complex and spicy, followed up by fresh apple on the palate, a slight note of nougat with an invigorating tartness and an extremely long finish. It's already a poetic accompaniment to many dishes, but is also definitely a champagne with a great deal of potential for laying down!
Palmes d’Or Brut 2008
Nicolas Feuillatte, Champagne, France
(Chardonnay, Pinot Noir)
60208 / 75 cl / CHF 169.00ORDER HERE
DOMINÈ VERDICCHIO DEI CASTELLI DI JESI
The Pievalta winery celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Its wines were produced organically right from the outset and have now also been graced by biodynamic certification for over ten years. The clear focus here is on the Verdicchio grape variety, which is typical of the appellation Castello di Jes found in the region of Italy known as The Marches, where it grows on the slopes overlooking the River Esino. Verdicchio is quite deliberately only released for sale after maturing in the bottle for a few years and I consider it to be the ideal summer wine. Named after the historical market which once stood on the site of the winery, this wine is captivatingly citric and herbaceous, has a lovely note of peach and is almost thirst-quenching on the palate, so pronounced is its animating effect. A real discovery for those relaxing summer evenings!
Dominè Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi 2019
Pievalta, Marche, Italy
12082 / 75 cl / CHF 21.00ORDER HERE
SAUVIGNON BLANC EHRENHAUSEN
The fact that Styria produces some majestic wines gets almost completely overlooked on account of the region's many other marvellous products. Pumpkin seed oil, apples, fruit brandies, "Backhendl" (a local fried chicken delicacy)... and all of that in a landscape reminiscent of Tuscany. The Polz family refers to itself with tongue in cheek as "Now new since 1912" and has recently undergone a generational change. Erich and Christoph (the fourth generation) are now at the helm of the business and, with this local wine, have shown exactly what it is that makes a good Styrian Sauvignon Blanc so very special; more elegant than Marlborough, more straightforward than the Loire and very well-rounded on the palate. A great balance of exotic fruit, crisp acidity and chalky minerality. You'll find yourself reaching for a second bottle before your "Backhendl" is even ready...
Sauvignon Blanc Ehrenhausen 2018
Weingut Polz, Südsteiermark, Austria
15151 / 75 cl / CHF 24.80ORDER HERE
PETITE ARVINE TRADITION
I've now been living in Switzerland for five years. And the thing that my international fellow sommeliers envy me for most of all is the sheer range of indigenous grape varieties found here, varieties that they only really ever get to taste when they come to Switzerland. I can imagine no lovelier a place to taste the Petite Arvine from the Bonvin winery than the little wine cottage, La Guérite Brulefer, which is situated in the middle of a steep vineyard overlooking the Rhône. And to go with it, a little plate of Swiss delicacies to make it a perfect day... and yet, the "Tradition", with its interplay of peppery spices, herbaceous notes and invigorating freshness, specially pressed for us at Baur au Lac Vins, isn't just a winner in the Valais canton, but elsewhere too. Santé!
Petite Arvine Tradition 2020
Bonvin, Valais, Switzerland
10060 / 75 cl / CHF 26.90ORDER HERE
CHABLIS PREMIER CRU MONTÉE DE TONNERRE
In Burgundy, it's all about the site. And this Premier Cru by the name of Montée de Tonnerre lies directly adjacent to the hill of Grand Crus near the village of Chablis, with its ideal orientation towards the South-West. The Brocards have been working with biodynamic methods for many years, and their wines have long enjoyed great popularity, especially on the terrace of the Baur au Lac. The first nose of this Chablis reveals a smoky and chalky minerality, which continues to unfold on the palate. The aromas fluctuate between Granny Smith and lime, with an added dash of firm acidity and a salty finish. A terrific wine, and not just with seafood! And here's another tip: Don't serve it too chilled if you want to allow its full impact to unfold in your round Burgundy glass.
Chablis Premier Cru Montée de Tonnerre 2020
Julien Brocard, Chablis, France
11228 / 75 cl / CHF 59.00ORDER HERE
WACHENHEIMER RIESLING AUSLESE
"Riesling was my first love..." My first position as a sommelier was in the Rheingau region, in the heart of one of the world's most historical regions for Riesling cultivation. Thus it will come as no surprise that you will always find a bottle of Riesling in my own private fridge. All the more reason for my belief that sweet wines in general, and Riesling Auslese in particular, really need to be championed. This harmonious balance of sweetness and tartness, coupled with an abundance of fruit and minerality, not only provides the perfect way to flatter your dessert but can also conjure up moments of pure bliss on its own. And when you add to your glass a historical family business, biodynamic cultivation and one of the best winemaking locations in the Mittelhaardt region, then, as far as I'm concerned, the result is perfect happiness!
Wachenheimer Riesling Auslese 2017
Dr. Bürklin-Wolf, Pfalz, Germany
15025 / 37.5 cl / CHF 33.50ORDER HERE
LE CAPRICE DE CLÉMENTINE ROSÉ
A dangerous wine... if you take it with you to the lakefront on a sunny day, you'll be well advised to pack several bottles because it goes down so easily. From there, it's but a small leap of the imagination to find yourself in picturesque Provence, where the Pons family turned its back on the IT business at the end of the 1990s to take over this organic winery, naming it after their children Valentin and Clémentine. Also named after their daughter is this nimble rosé from 40-year-old Grenache Noir and Cinsault vines. You will be captivated by its many citric and light berry notes, almost reminiscent of candied raspberries. Ideal as an aperitif but also great served with light snacks and summer salads or with olives.
Le Caprice de Clémentine Rosé 2021
Château Les Valentines, Côtes de Provence, France
29002 / 75 cl / CHF 18.80ORDER HERE
"A cold, dry and often strong downslope wind" is how Wikipedia describes the Mistral. The wind which lends its name to this wine is critical to the survival of the vineyards of the Rhône valley, playing a crucial role in cooling the vines that are exposed to the full glare of the sun. Philippe Bravay is a fourth-generation winegrower based in Orange, and we have been serving his Châteauneuf-du-Pape with great enthusiasm for many years now. The Mistral is a fairly new addition to his range, and I was hooked as soon as I tasted it. Younger vines come to the fore here, with Syrah being the star of the show. A very dense, spicy wine made from red fruits, which is excellently suited to many of the dishes found on a traditional bistro menu but can also be enjoyed on its own.
Mistral Côtes-du-Rhône 2020/21
Domaine de Ferrand, Côtes-du-Rhône, France
(Syrah, Grenache, Carignan, Vaccarèse)
28315 / 75 cl / CHF 15.00ORDER HERE
CRAZY HATTER ALENTEJO RED WINE
Dirk Niepoort has been described by VINUM as a "Legendary Winegrower". Born in Portugal with Flemish ancestry, he was one of the first in the Douro Valley to craft not only port but also red wines back in the 1980s, and he is now one of the most successful practitioners of the art. So successful, in fact, that he is using his expertise to help other, less well-known Portuguese wine regions make the leap onto the international stage. As part of the Crazy Hatters project, he has now taken the products of the Alentejos Portolalegre region, whose vineyards are dominated by granite and shale, and reinterpreted them as thoroughly quaffable dense and spicy cuvées with a hint of cherry. We say “Saúde” to this discovery!
Crazy Hatter Alentejo Red Wine 2017
Dirk van der Niepoort, Alentejo, Portugal
(Aragonez, Trincadeira, Grand Noir, Alicante Bouschet, Castelão)
39031 / 75 cl / CHF 16.90ORDER HERE
3 BAR PINOT NOIR
When sommeliers from other countries ask me which grape variety will bring international success for Swiss wines, my answer is always the same: Pinot Noir. So I am all the more delighted that this Pinot is being made exclusively for us. 3 BAR is a collaborative project between the Rahm family from Hallau, the winegrowers Patrick & Hansruedi Adank from Fläsch and us at Baur au Lac Vins. Made from grapes grown in clay and loamy soils, it has a distinctive dark fruit bouquet with a hint of coffee and makes a very balanced impression on the palate, with discreet tannin and a pleasant acidic kick. It can be enjoyed solo or with any number of light meals, especially savoury dishes.
3 BAR Pinot Noir 2018
Weingut zum Talheim, Schaffhausen, Switzerland
Hansruedi Adank, Bündner Herrschaft, Switzerland
30177 / 75 cl / CHF 24.80ORDER HERE
Guests often ask me for a dark, intense and opulent red wine that can hold its own even with braised dishes or stews. One of my favourite varieties of grape to meet this requirement is Mourvèdre, known in Spain as Monastrell. This variety is the star of the show in Five Miles from Yecla (not far from Alicante) and is ably supported by the Garnacha Tintorera grape. In this warm part of the world, the altitude of 800 m is crucial, as it allows the wine to grace the palate with a freshness and pleasant tartness in spite of its explosive, almost jammy fruitiness and slightly elevated alcohol content. A warming wine for cold winter evenings in front of an open fire.
Five Miles 2016/17
Atlan & Artisan, Yecla, Spain
(Monastrell, Garnacha Tintorera)
37070 / 75 cl / CHF 39.80ORDER HERE
South Africa is the only country outside of Europe which I have visited twice. Why? Well, it boasts a landscape that literally takes your breath away. Wines that move you and tell stories. And, above all, people who radiate happiness in the face of adversity and pursue their dreams with great passion. People like Penny and Niels Verburg, who, with this little gem in Bot River, close to the whale-watching city of Hermanus, are fully signed up to the tradition of the anti-technology Luddites. They now press a number of grape varieties, but their winery indisputably revolves around Shiraz. The bottles are numbered, and, once in the glass, the wine ignites a veritable firework display of aromas: dark plum, chocolate, liquorice, black pepper, firm tannin and a full-bodied warmth come together to ensure that it goes down a treat. A perfect companion to the braai, as South Africans call their barbecues.
Luddite Shiraz 2017
Luddite Wines, Bot River, South Africa
53010 / 75 cl / CHF 45.00ORDER HERE
As a sommelier, you get the chance to sample lots of wines. Not all of which taste good. Cabernet Franc is a good example of a grape variety whose wines have, on balance, more often than not failed to convince me. But I'm always happy to give it another chance and am all the happier when a wine completely entrances me, as this monovarietal Cabernet Franc has managed to do. In this red wine from the Bolgheri region, the Ratti family has created a very classy, concentrated Cabernet of impressive length and with multiple layers. Seductively ripe red fruit, black olives, violets, white pepper and tannin which is silky smooth on the palate, rounded oaky notes and a brilliant finish. Give it a little air in the decanter and it will add oenophilic class to any table. And, by the way: the Tenuta Sette Cieli only produces this wine in the best vintages, and even then they only make 4,000 bottles...
Sette Cieli, Toscana, Italy
35256 / 75 cl / CHF 81.00ORDER HERE
LET'S BE HEDONISTIC
Sometimes you just have to treat yourself! A round trip through select European wine regions, from champagne to dessert wine, a perfect package to go with the big menu. Also ideal as a gift. The tasting package includes 1 bottle each of:
- Tarlant Brut Réserve,Tarlant, Champagne
- Chablis Premier Cru Montée de Tonnerre, Julien Brocard, Chablis
- 3 BAR Pinot Noir, Rahm/Adank, Schaffhausen/Bündner Herrschaft
- Five Miles, Atlan & Artisan, Yecla
- Scipio, Sette Cieli, Toscana
- Wachenheimer Riesling Auslese (37.5 cl), Dr. Bürklin-Wolf, Pfalz
Tasting package Let’s be hedonistic
86390 / CHF 287.90
BEST OF BUDGET
Light, unpretentious wine indulgence. Three wines that clearly show their origin and at the same time seduce with a great drinkability. The tasting package includes 1 bottle (75 cl) each:
- Dominè Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, Pievalta, Marche
- Mistral Côtes-du-Rhône, Domaine de Ferrand, Côtes-du-Rhône
- Crazy Hatter Alentejo Red Wine, Dirk van der Niepoort, Alentejo
Tasting package Best of Budget
86400 / CHF 52.90
Summer at last! Time to enjoy a barbecue, to chat together on the terrace and to enjoy warm evenings on the lakeshore. Three fruit-forward wines that will give you a lot of pleasure. The tasting package includes 1 bottle each (75 cl):
- Sauvignon Blanc Ehrenhausen,Weingut Polz, Südsteiermark
- Le Caprice de Clémentine Rosé, Château Les Valentines, Provence
- Luddite Shiraz, Luddite Wines, Bot River
Tasting package Sizzling Summer
86410 / CHF 88.60
I would be delighted if I could persuade you to try out these wines on behalf of my recommendation. And I would be even more delighted if you would care to share your opinion of them with me. Whether you do so on Instagram or any other social media network, at the tables of the Baur au Lac restaurants or of course in one of our four Baur au Lac Vins shops. We're already looking forward to welcoming you in person, either online or offline, to one of this year's tasting events and to savouring a glass of wine with you.
With kind regards from one oenophile to another,