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Chandra Kurt, CornalinValais, Switzerland 2019 (750mL)

From the Wine Shop

Chandra Kurt, Cornalin Valais, Switzerland 2019 (750mL)

“Because 98-99% of Swiss wines never leave their home country, spotting a bottle like today’s out in the wild is an extremely rare occasion. Although not cheap, there’s no questioning the superb talent and terroir obsession that went into this beautifully ripe, deeply textured red.”

Chandra Kurt’s Cornalin hails from the canton of Valais in the south of Switzerland. Valais is almost perfectly equidistant from Lyons and Milan, and the vineyards here are a true viticultural mashup. On these south-facing slopes, Pinot Noir and Savagnin overlook the Rhône river (yes, that Rhône river), growing happily alongside local specialties like Chasselas and Gamaret. The Cornalin grape in question today is actually an Italian variety, a product of the Valle d’Aosta just south of the Valais. And while it technically isn’t indigenous to Switzerland, it has a centuries-long history here. The Valais and Valle d’Aosta engage in a kind of agricultural back-and-forth anyways, with varieties like Cornalin and Petite Arvine perfectly at home on either side of the border.

If you had to nominate a single champion for the magic of Swiss juice, it’d be Chandra Kurt. She’s so synonymous with the exploration and promotion of her native country’s vinous treasures that she’s been dubbed “Lady Chasselas” and “the Empress of Swiss Wine.”  Having visited every important cellar and vineyard in the country, she eventually decided to try her hand at winemaking, with a lineup celebrating Switzerland’s most unique varieties and styles. Imagine if Jancis Robinson decided to have a go at making English sparkling wine! One imagines that with her incredible store of knowledge and access to practically any fruit she wants, Chandra’s winemaking venture might be immediately successful, and you’d be right. But this is no cash grab; rather it’s just the next logical step in Chandra’s decades-long exploration of her country’s entrancing wines. We’re beyond thrilled that she’s making these rare delights a little easier to get our hands on, not to mention making some of the finest and most polished Swiss wines we’ve had the pleasure of tasting! 

Cornalin is beguiling in its balance between mountainous rusticity and plump polish. Chandra’s 2019 bottling was fermented and aged entirely in stainless to emphasize the grape’s drink-me-now pleasure. It pours a luminous dark ruby with hints of purple, and the nose is simply explosive. Sweet red cherries, brambly raspberries, elderberries, Damson plum flesh, violet petals, white pepper, and a waft of smoke burst forth. The full-bodied palate is soft and full with thirst-quenching acidity, the tannins just a notch higher than medium, providing a deliciously structured frame for all that glorious fruit. It’s an all-the-time red, happily drunk on its own but even better with some pork or game bird in front of it. And while it’s definitely meant to be enjoyed now, it’s the sort of bottle I could see happily surprising me in a few years If I’m able to keep my hands off it. Load up and start your Swiss wine journey!

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