Humagne Blanche 2009, Giroud Vins, Sion
According to their website Humagne Blanche is the oldest known white grape and originates in the Valais area of Switzerland, where it was first known, in the late 14th century as "Humani" or humany' according to Jancis Robinson et al's encyclopaedic Wine Grapes. Robinson's co-author ampelographer José Vouillamoz claims it's identical to two other
It was believed to be particularly rich in iron and used to be recommended as a tonic for pregnant women though Vouillamoz says this is a myth and most probably the herbs they added to it.
The flavour is certainly quite curious. Appley, though not cidery - cooked apple rather than fresh - richly honeyed, with a crisp, lemony finish. It reminded me more of aged Vouvray than anything else though without the cabbagey notes that sometimes afflict it. It's even better a day after opening.
There wasn't much on the site about how the grapes were grown but the Girouds' own site reveals they follow biodynamic practices and are in the process of phasing out chemicals in the winery. They don't mention yeasts but the wine tasted pretty natural to us. The wine is aged for six months in large oak vats, is a modest 12.5% and is recommended with mousses, terrines, cold cuts and Alpine cheese*.
It's not cheap at £19.50 but why should it be if there's so little of it? A real curiosity.
Rating: AMBER (see my traffic lights system to the right)
*According to Nick Dobson the Giroud family are "enthusiastic supporters of other traditional skills and trades in the Valais, from cheesemaking up in the alps to the traditional "combat des reines" or 'cow fighting'. Though given that cows sometimes refuse to take part according to this Wikipedia report it sounds more like cow shoving.