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Life

Switzerland: expand your wine horizons

When you think of travelling through Switzerland, images of breath-taking natural scenery and exciting cities full of art and culture no doubt come to mind. But do you also picture stopping at cellar doors to taste world-class wines?

If not, you need to expand your Swiss horizons, because this diverse country is home to over 200 types of vines, at least 40 of which are indigenous and have histories dating back to ancient times. What’s more, with only extremely limited quantities made, you’ll only find 1-2% of Swiss wines outside their homeland.

There are seven wine regions throughout German-speaking, French-speaking and Italian-speaking Switzerland: Eastern Switzerland; Geneva; Lake Geneva Region; Three Lake Country; Ticino; Valais; and Graubünden.

Heritage haven

For winelovers who like a dose of history with their tastings, the Lake Geneva region is home to the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Lavaux Vineyard. Dating back to the 11th century when Benedictine and Cistercian monks called the area home, this fascinating site features 14 kilometres of terraced vineyards stretching above Lake Geneva. These incredible vines are still producing wine, with Chasselas, a full, dry and fruity white, the most common.

For keen walkers, two routes wend through the region, both taking around two hours and starting at Grandvaux station with one finishing at Cully and the other at Lutry. For a more sedate tour, there are also two miniature train excursions on either the Lavaux Panoramic or the Lavaux Express.

In the glass

As well as Chasselas, a visit to the Lake Geneva Region will see you sampling unique expressions of Gamay and Pinot Noir. Further south-west in Geneva itself, you’ll also find Chardonnay, Riesling-Sylvaner (Müller-Thurgau), Pinot Blanc, Aligoté via Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris through to Gewürztraminer and Viognier Gamaret, and in the reds, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.

For another lakeside wine experience, the Three Lake Country will see you again savouring Chasselas, as well as Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Home to the highest vineyard in Europe at 1,150 metres above sea level, Valais is another region that sees Chasselas at the top of its whites list, while Pinot Noir is the most common red. However, you’ll also find varieties here that few outside the area have heard of, including Petite Arvine, Amigne, Humagne Blanc, Humagne Rouge and Cornalin.

Heading further east and south of the Alps is the Italian-speaking Ticino region, where 90 per cent of the wine produced is Merlot. They even make a white called Merlot Bianco. Less common red varieties include Bondola, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc and in the whites, Chardonnay, Chasselas, Sauvignon and Semillon.

“Great things come in small packages” is the motto of German-speaking Switzerland where Pinot Noir and Riesling-Silvaner are the most common varieties. Local specialties include Räuschling and Completer, along with Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc.

A GOURMAND’S DELIGHT

Given its German, French and Italian influences, it comes as no surprise that Switzerland is a melting pot of diverse cuisines. Of course, there are also Swiss favourites we’ve all come to love including fondue, raclette, rösti, birchermüesli, chocolate and cheese.

However, it’s the regional specialities that really make Swiss cuisine unique. In French-speaking Romandie, there’s the unfortunately named, but wonderfully flavour-filled cholera, a vegetable tart. Or seafood lovers will find heavenly dishes of powan, perch and trout.

In Appenzellerland, you have to try their famous gingerbread pictures, while in St Gallen go for the OLMA bratwurst, but make sure you hold the mustard and allow the meat’s full aromas to shine.

There’s more meat on show in Bern with the Berner Platte of various meats including beef, smoked pork and beef tongue, smoked belly of pork, smoked pork chops, pork shoulder, knuckle of pork, tongue sausage and pigs ears or tails. There’s also Haselnuslebkuchen (hazelnut gingerbread), but don’t be fooled by the name, it’s quite unlike any gingerbread you’ll have tried before.

In Basel you’ll be treated to Basler flour soup, cheese and onion tart, suuri Lääberli (sour liver strips) and sweet Basler Leckerli (more gingerbread). Zurich is famed for its wafer biscuits including Hüppen and Offleten and the sweet theme continues with Zuger Kirschtorte, an indulgent cake featuring kirsch and plenty of butter cream.

Cheese is the main them of Central Switzerland with Älplermagronen (macaroni, potatoes, cheese, cream and roasted onions) being the most famous. Then there’s Luzerner Chügelipastete (a vol-au-vent filled with sausage meat balls in a white sauce), stews such as Hafenchabis (lamb or pork stew with cabbage) and Stunggis (pork and vegetable stew).

In Ticino, chestnuts are the stars, served hot in winter, as well as in bread, pasta and praline chocolates. Small Italian macaroons called Amaretti will satiate the sweet tooths and can be washed down with Gazosa, a sweet fizzy lemonade.

Grison dishes are rich and hearty and include Pizzoccheri (stew with buckwheat pasta, vegetables and cheese), Capuns (rolls made of chard or cos lettuce and filled with Spätzle dough), Maluns (grated potatoes mixed with flour and cooked slowly in butter), Churer meat tart and Birnbrot (a thin layer of bread dough filled with a mixture of fruit, nuts and dough).

GETTING AROUND

An ideal way to take in the wine, food and scenic highlights of this wonderful country is by following the Grand Tour of Switzerland. A self-drive and rail extravaganza, it takes you to the country’s most famous destinations and reveals hidden gems off the beaten track.

For more information on Switzerland and other experiences on offer, visit myswitzerland.com

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Moon Festival
Words by Mark Hughes on 22 Sep 2015
Falling on the 15th day of the 8th month according to the Chinese lunar calendar, the Moon Festival is the one of the grandest festivals in Asia. Also known as the mid-Autumn Festival, the 15th is when the moon is at its roundest and brightest, and it is a time of special significance. Slightly differing from the customs of Moon Festival in China, Korea celebrates the mid-Autumn event by preparing a banquet to pay respects to ancestors for a successful harvest. During the festivities, Korean people travel back to their hometown to spend time with their families and to enjoy food predominately made from rice, which is harvested during this period.   “The Moon Festival is called Chuseok in Korea,” says Eun Hee An, chef and co-owner with her husband Ben Sears, and wine agent Ned Brooks of Korean restaurant Paper Bird  in the Sydney suburb of Potts Point. “Traditionally, Chuseok is a day to pray to your ancestors in order to assure a good harvest that year. I am from Ulsan, but we have family members in Seoul, Chungju and Busan, so it’s one of the few times a year (along with Seolnal, which is Chinese New Year) that the entire family comes together. We come together, commemorate family members who have passed (Charye) and do Seongmyo, where we make offerings at their graves.” Family feast Of course, with the family gathered, food is important to the festivities and Eun recalls her favourite memory from the Moon Festival when she was a child. “One of the offerings we make is songpyeon: a sweet rice cake, like a mochi, stuffed with honey, sesame or red bean, shaped into a half-moon crescent. Young girls are told that whoever makes the best looking songpyeon will get the best looking husband, so I was always very focused with my mochi decorations!” Unique to the Songpyeon in Korea is the use of pine leaves. During the cooking process, the Songpyeon is steamed together with pine leaves, which adds a delightfully aromatic twist to the traditional dessert. Along with the Songpyeon, Eun’s favourite dish during the Moon Festival was a pan-fried fritter known as jeon, as well as a special recipe perfected by her grandmother. “Besides songpyeon we eat assorted jeon, which is a Korean pan fried fritter. My favourites are zucchini and also my granny’s gochujeon, which is a chilli stuffed with minced beef and then battered and fried. Chuseok in Australia Ben and Eun manned the pans at Sydney’s iconic Claude’s restaurant before it shut down in 2013, which prompted the pair to start up their own venture. From humble beginnings, Moon Park has emerged as one of Sydney’s best Korean restaurants with the menu featuring a fresh focus on traditional Korean. Dishes such as Sooyuk – cold smoked pork belly braised with artichoke and chestnut in mushroom dashi, sit alongside fusion dishes like barbecued octopus with potato cream, kelp oil, garlic chive kimchi, and crispy fried chicken with   pickled radish, soy and syrup. These days with Eun making a life for herself in Sydney with Ben, she celebrates the Moon Festival in her own way. “In a way, Chuseok for me is bittersweet because I am the only member of my family who no longer lives in Korea,” says Eun. “Of course, I still want to celebrate, so I call my parents and talk to everyone about what they are doing and the food they are enjoying. But it is a time of year I realise how far away I am.” Eun says they will also celebrate the Moon Festival with their patrons in the restaurant with some traditional Chuseok dishes added to the menu during Autumn, but she doubts the festival will ever get as big over here as it is back home in Korea. “It would be great, but I don’t think it could ever be,” she says. “Chuseok is a very old tradition in a country where, historically, for many people the quality of the year was defined by the agricultural harvest. Even now, as more people move to cities, it is still so ingrained as a big part of our cultural upbringing.” NOTE: We ran this article in the Spring issue of Selector followed by recipes for chicken skewers and stir-fry beef, and it could be assumed that these recipes were from Moon Park. However, Ben and Eun were not the authors of these recipes and they are in no way affiliated with the products featured in the recipes. Sorry for the confusion, and to Ben and Eun. If you have a hankering for traditional Korean with a fresh focus, then check out P aper Bird , I think you’ll be rewarded.
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Be still my Indian heart
Words by Kathy Lane on 14 Jan 2016
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Life
California Dreaming
Words by Paul Diamond on 27 Jun 2017
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Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
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