Everyone has their own tips and tricks for preparing the perfect Swiss cheese fondue, from choosing the right combinations of cheese, to selecting the guests for cosy get-togethers with friends and family around a blazing log fire. But shouldn't the wine accompaniment also be right?
We asked eight top sommeliers and wine experts to recommend a wine to accompany this hearty dish (and if you haven't yet found the perfect fondue recipe, check out ours at the end).
Silvaner Langenberg 2019, Rudolf May, Retzstadt, Franken
Styrian-born and Cordo co-owner and sommelier Gerhard Retter is not only a restaurateur, but also a German TV star and internationally sought-after sommelier. He recommends a Franconian Silvaner with cheese fondue.
"Well, the Swiss often drink black tea with fondue, but that doesn't have to be the case. Fendant is always good, for example from Rene Germain... but it may be a Franconian Silvaner. I'd suggest 2019 Silvaner Langenberg by Rudolf May from Retzstadt, a complex Franconian wine with wonderful spiciness and good balance. It will refresh and enliven the dish.
If in Austria, I would go for a young Neuburger Leithaberg from Erwin Tinhof. The nuttiness of the wine matches perfectly with melted cheese... flattering on the palate and a good partner for fondue.
For the hardcore: kirsch from Hans Reisetbauer...if schnapps then it should be a good one!"
Gewürztraminer Grand Cru Zinnkoepflé 2017, Leon Boesch, Alsace
German sommelier Jan Konetzki is director of wine at London's Four Seasons Hotel and Ten Trinity Square Private Club. As a food accompaniment to the hearty fondue, he recommends a Grand Cru Gewürztraminer from Alsace.
"A fondue is always a social affair, almost a party. My theory is fullness over acidity in wine for this dish. Loud, intense wines with a melting texture that can keep up with the strength of the cheeses are best. The Leon Boesch Gewürztraminer Grand Cru Zinnkoepflé 2017 is from old vines from a steep limestone and sandstone site in Alsace. A super perfumed wine in the glass - reminiscent of mango, lychee, nutmeg and liquorice. Dry on the palate with a lot of muscle and power, but somehow also velvety."
Dézaley Chemin de Fer AOC Grand Cru 2018, Luc Massy, Waadt
Sindy Kretschmar came to The Ritz-Carlton in Vienna, where she is head sommelière, after holding several posts in German star gastronomy. Thanks to her natural hospitality and in-depth expertise, she was named Falstaff Sommelière of the Year in 2018. Sindy recommends a Swiss Chasselas with cheese fondue.
"I would like to recommend a Swiss wine to go with this popular Swiss dish. Boring? No! Firstly, I think we enjoy far too little wine from this region, and secondly because Chasselas (Gutedel) grape variety is considered rather step-motherly.
The Luc Massy vineyard is located in Epesses with a magnificent view over Lake Geneva and the Western Alps. The best conditions for this grape variety are in the Grand Cru site of Dézaley, on calcareous and alluvial soils. The wine glides seductively over the tongue with all its fullness, silky texture and aromatic complexity.
Aromas of pear, apricot, honey and a hint of flint combine in perfect symbiosis with the two cheese mainstays Gruyère, which provides the spiciness, and Vacherin Mont d'Or, which gives the fondue its creaminess."
Grüner Veltliner Smaragd 2013, Weingut Knoll, Wachau
Talented Austrian, Madeleine Löhner, worked as a restaurant manager and sommelière at the two-star restaurant Focus Atelier. Today she runs her own restaurant, HYG, in Weggis, Switzerland. She pairs a Grüner Veltliner from the Wachau with cheese fondue.
"This year, for the New Year's fondue on 1 January, we opened a bottle of Grüner Veltliner Smaragd 2013 from Weingut Knoll to combine the Swiss speciality with a piece of my homeland. The fullness, power and softness of the wine harmonised perfectly with the mightiness of the cheese fondue. It is important to me that the wine for a fondue does not have too much acidity, so I like to go for more mature wines."
Arbois Savagnin Ouillé 2018, Domaine Marquis d'Angerville / Domaine du Pélican
Stefanie Hehn, a native of Franconia, works as head sommelière at the five-star hotel The Fontenay in Hamburg and passed the Master Sommeliére exam in 2020. She pairs a French Savagnin with cheese fondue.
"I particularly like to combine white wines from French Jura with cheese, because their racy acidity gives you that fresh kick. This one is from the Savagnin grape variety, which is also called Traminer or Nature. Apart from the name, it has nothing in common with its relative Gewürztraminer. Its aroma is rather discreet and it is not as viscous as its more aromatic cousin.
Savagnin is clearly characterised by fresh and dried citrus fruits, chamomile blossom, lovage and salted almonds. Jura's Jurassic limestone soils give it aromas of fresh white mushrooms and cold cheese - almost like being in a cave where mushrooms grow and cheese ripens. On the palate, it is bone dry, very refreshing acidity and intensely marked by a salty limestone minerality. It stays on the palate for a long time and is slightly yeasty on the finish."
Roussette de Savoie 2015, Domaine Dupasquier, Jongieux
Falstaff Sommelier of the Year 2020, Markus Gould, is host at the Viennese wine restaurant Heunisch & Erben, where they serve around 100 wines by the glass. As a wine pairing, he recommends a French Roussette (Altesse).
"I accompany the cheese fondue in a super-classic way with an Alpine white wine, because fondue comes from the Western Alps, even if many Swiss would like to patriotically appropriate the dish. In the mini wine-growing region of Savoie, probably half of the wine is drunk in the ski resorts with the evening cheese pot, most of it without much pretension - but I also find that fondues are more about conviviality than epicurean feasts anyway.
The Jacquere 2016 (a white cuvée) or Roussette de Savoie 2015 from Domaine Dupasquier in Jongieux. The latter is a little more serious and is from the Roussette (Altesse) grape variety. Both are refreshing, clear, stony, cool."
Tsampéhro Blanc «Edition VIII» Clos de Tsampéhro 2018, Valais
After several stations in top international gastronomy, Austrian-born Moritz Dresing has been responsible for the wine selection in the five renowned restaurants of the Swiss five star hotel The Chedi Andermatt as Head Sommelier since 2020. He combines a cuvée from the Valais with cheese fondue.
"The cuvée from Clos de Tsampéhro, made from the indigenous grape varieties Heida and Rèze, presents itself with great freshness and lightness, thus perfectly counteracting the mightiness of the cheese. On the palate, ripe flavours and subtle woody tones are perfectly integrated. A great balance between acidity and body and ideal for fondue."
Petit Arvine, Thierry Constantin, Valais
Austrian-born Master Sommelier Stefan Neumann has been director of wine at the London restaurant Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park since 2018. He has chosen a Petit Arvine.
"This is a home game for the often underestimated Petit Arvine. A grape variety found in the Valais Valley in Switzerland. Thierry Constantin owns only a few hectares of vineyards, but his Petit Arvine is for me one of the best Swiss wines ever. The relatively low acidity goes perfectly with Gruyère, which always has a slightly salty note. And if you're feeling more adventurous, you could also try a wheat beer, one from Switzerland, naturally."
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