Posted: May 01, 2013
"A Nation without tradition is a dead Nation”
Tasting wine that has been standing for 125 years is probably not your average afternoon apéro. Tucked away in the steep valley of the Val d’Anniviers, Grimentz is a rustic village of postcard-perfect chalets, alluring granaries, and generations-old traditions. Traditions like the trans-humance - the nomadic lifestyle of alpine herders that the Anniviards, the people of the valley of Anniviers, upheld until relatively recently. And then there are traditions like drinking decades - if not centuries-old wine.
Located in the centre of the village, the 15th century Burgher house is where the naturally cool cellars of the infamous glacier wine are found (not to be confused with the “ice wine” which is derived from the pressing of frozen grapes!). Each year, local grape varieties like Johannisberg, Ermitage and Petite Arvine are harvested and fermented in the Rhone valley, and brought up to Grimentz to be decanted into the existing casks. The tradition dates back to a few bad years for the crops when the Anniviards had to ration their wine in large oak barrels. And still today, no more than 10% of the wine is consumed every year which means the barrels are continuously being topped up with younger wines each season. This is, of course, against the standard method of wine-making , but Grimentz holds to its own traditions when it comes to how to make (and drink) their wine. Often compared to a sherry, the wine is never bottled, but drunk directly from the cask. It’s also imperative that the wine is consumed above an altitude of 1200 meters. These rules were, no doubt, made after a few glasses of the wine itself...
Many of the barrels date back to around the 1930s and are stored in the ‘Bourgeoisie’ cellar. But one barrel in particular - The Bishop’s Barrel - dates back to 1886, making the oldest wine over 125 years old. Some of the families in Grimentz even have their own private selection, so if you can, it’s probably a good idea to get in with the locals.
Photos of Grimentz: http://www.myswitzerland.com/en/grimentz.html
Glacier Wine History: