For the past decade, Fabienne Cottagnoud has been producing trace amounts of phenomenal wines in the small village appellation of Vétroz, located in the Swiss region of Valais near the country’s southern border with Italy. Although Swiss growers are not typically given much attention in the US, I have found the country—and especially its Valais region—to be a consistently rewarding source of unique and soulful wine. Today's wine is a perfect example: Fabienne’s 2011 Pinot Noir is obviously a product of meticulous, organic grape growing and an experienced and deeply talented hand in the cellar.
Fabienne is a devoutly natural grape farmer, relying on both organic and biodynamic principles in her vineyards. A brief stroll through her vines tells the whole story: lush green grass and a diversity of insects and wild flowers indicate a total absence of chemicals and herbicides. The location of her vineyard parcels—narrowly wedged between alpine forests in the mountains (again, harvested by helicopter!), or alongside vegetable gardens on the valley floor—indicates a grower who understands the necessity of polyculture and maintaining nature’s inherent balance. Of course, doing everything “the right way” has its consequences; Fabienne can only produce a small amount of wine each year, most of which tends to get quickly snatched up by her eager fans. Fortunately, we jumped on this delicious Pinot Noir the day it was released and were able to corner a generous allocation for SommSelect.
The vibrant electricity of the 2011 Fabienne Cottagnoud Pinot Noir is immediately recognizable in the glass—a concentrated dark ruby core with a highly reflective light ruby rim. This wine is instantly recognizable as world class Pinot Noir, but its aromatic palette is unique from its varietal cousins in Burgundy and California: cassis, blackberry, dark strawberries and mountain flowers overflow from the glass. This depth and darkness of fruit is balanced by a core of slate and granite minerality. It possesses impressive body and weight for a wine grown in such a challenging, alpine climate. While this wine will certainly improve for another two years, its lush fruit, soft edges, and haunting finish speak of a wine that is all about instant gratification. In short, please open and enjoy it right now, preferably decanted for one hour and served in a large Burgundy stem at about 60 degrees. Finally, I share that there is an intensity to this wine that beckons me toward duck and pork. I recommend a simple roasted or grilled and sauceless preparation that allows this impressive wine to provide the meal’s fireworks. You will not be disappointed by this delicious and memorable wine.