Charles Bonvin Fils Domaine Clos du Château Dôle du Valais 2005
I had previously reviewed this Swiss winemaker's Humagne Rouge, made from a grape well
regarded in Switzerland but hardly known outside. The present wine showcases more familiar
grapes: 90% Pinot Noir and 10% Gamay. At 16 Swiss Francs the wine sells for the
equivalent of about $14, though you are most likely to find it in a restaurant in North
America for considerably more. My own half bottle was a gift from a traveler to Switzerland.
The Bonvin family has been producing wines in the Valais, in French-speaking Switzerland
centered around the town of Sion, for several generations. I would think a family with a name
like Bonvin either knows a thing or two about wine, or has a flair for public relations. I
Though the Swiss Valais really isn't that far from Burgundy and Beaujolais, where this wine's two grapes hold court, the Domaine Clos du Château is its own wine. This wine is clear and light, so much so that I was tempted to think it was a rosé by its color, until its solidity in the glass began to plead the case for depth. The wine has a reluctant nose, a tight nose, a closed nose; pick your adjective, but it more than makes up for this seeming deficiency in the mouth. It brings minerality, almost at the level of stoniness you find in a fine sparkling water, the Italian San Pellegrino or the German Apollinaris. It is a minerality you feel on your teeth.
The Pinot Noir center of this wine has little to do with any wine style from Burgundy. The
minerality aside, the wine lacks Burgundian dirt entirely, nor does it present multiple
dimensions. The tradeoff is tang and purity, with fresh, vibrant, mainstream cherry fruit. The
wine gets a bit of strawberry roundness, a bit of thickness, a floral tinge, from that Gamay.
The minerality sews it all up and keeps it all together. The finish is mineral pucker, clean as a
whistle. In fact this wine is in every sense clean, though in no sense sterile. It is enjoyable on
its own, and provides an excellent excuse not to do anything you might regret, like try to
climb a mountain.
Verdict: I could get used to this wine.
Swiss wines tend to be kept about as secret as those Swiss bank accounts, a shame.
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman