Charles Bonvin Humagne Rouge Valais 2005
The Humagne Rouge grape came to Switzerland's Valais from Italy long ago; despite the
similarity in name, the grape has nothing to do with the Swiss Humagne Blanc (which I have
tasted, but not reviewed). Four generations of the aptly named Bonvin family have been
producing a variety of wines in the Valais, centered around the town of Sion. The Bonvin
Humagne Rouge forms a part of the winemaker's Noble Cépage range of wines; this
wine sells for 22 Swiss Francs (about $18), but you'll probably have to factor in the cost of a
trip to Switzerland to get it.
Knowing the pedigree (a rare, traditional grape, wild, rustic, and perfect for pairing with venison), I decanted this wine the length of an afternoon. Fair enough, but the aroma filled the room, deep fruit and spice, brambles and mountain herbs: cassis, blackberry, black cherry, twigs, sage, and laurel. The wine in the mouth is both acidic and tannic, but both elements worked with the fruit to give excellent length, with delightful expressions of cocoa, saddle leather, mushroom and dried leaves. Since I only had a half bottle, I did not reach the “pairing with food” stage, except the last of the paté I bought the other day, and some parmigiano reggiano (which I always have available). I am not a venison fan in any case.
I do not expect the massive acreage of California or Chile to devote itself to Humagne Rouge
any time in the near future, but the excellence of this particular wine could serve as a
template for nearly any quality red effort. It has a smoky edge I can liken to a good
Zinfandel, though I know the grapes are not related. The grape may well be “rustic,” but this
particular wine holds its own as a sophisticated effort. If only it were available at the package
store around the corner.
Verdict: More than interesting
Dedicated producers keep many interesting grapes and wine types from fading into oblivion. It is up to us, the drinkers, to aid in this worthy effort. Please do your part.
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman