I lived in Switzerland for about a year when I was sixteen. I attended a french-language high school (probably acually a Lyceum, but I’ll have to look it up) called L’École Nouvelle de la Suisse Romande (roughly, “The New School of Romance Switzerland”). La Suisse Romande is a geographical subsection of Switzerland that may be understood, if vaguely, to mean “the non-german-speaking parts”; that’s pretty much the southern edge of the country.

While there, I learned to speak French, sorta, and got a taste for Swiss cuisine. Yes, yes, Swiss cuisine is like German food with really good cheese, but there’s more to it. There are really stinky sweetmeat-and-cabbage sausages called “saucissons” for example; and then there’s the wine they grow around Lake Geneva (“Lac Léman”), the body of water on which Lausanne is situated.

This wine is the wine around which my palate for wine formed, and all other wines are tasted in relation to it, at a pre-analytic level. This is despite my father’s best efforts to inculcate a well-formed palate on my part. He’s a winemaker of really long standing (his first batches were bottled around the time I was two, unless there are some even earlier vintages of which I’m unaware) and he’s damn good at it.

Now, let me clarify a bit: I know about wines, to an extent, and can taste wine with reasonable depth. I enjoy all sorts of wine. In fact, of late, my taste is moving toward sweeter wines, such as Reislings and the like. What I know about wine, and my long-standing interest in it, is due to the good offices of my father. Thanks, Pops!

However, because the Swiss wines grown near Lausanne are both rare enough (the Swiss don’t export the wine, by and large) and deeply-seated enough in my mind, these wines have the capacity to, quite literally, move me to tears when I have the good fortune to encounter them.

On Wednesday I was strolling through the aisles of one of our ever-multiplying neighborhood grocery stores when I saw the wines I have included photos of here. “Hm”, thought I, “a white cross on a red field. Hunh, that’s similar to the SWISS FLAG! Could these wines be from near Lausanne?”

So I bought one.

I opened it as soon as I got home to taste it, and, as Emeril sez, BAM!

As it turns out, the white cross on a red shield is the emblem of the Savoys, who had some sort of political sway in Switzerland for a period of time. The French département of Savoy is, in fact, the part of France right across the lake from Lausanne. These wines are really as close as I can reasonably expect to get to vins Vaudois or Valaisienne.

Especially as close as I can reasonably expect to find by walking around at random in the neighborhood.

All roads lead to Rome, I guess. Who’s the tribune this annum?

One thought on “Swiss wines

  1. Do you know what burglar’s wine is? It is listed under music below with no link? could you let me know the meaning and origin of this term. Milly

    Sure thing, Milly.

    Burglar’s Wine is the name of the band I play with at the moment. It’s from an old murder balled, “Down in the Willow Garden,” and is a reference to a Mickey Finn – a drink that has been drugged to knock out the person that consumes it.


    it’s a totally archaic usage and might even be some sort of coinage by the original author of the song, since it does not seem to appear in other contexts.


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