Some of the best organic wine in the world is being curated in the least likely place – German speaking Switzerland. Surprised? This off the beaten wine track shop doesn’t disappoint.
From the outside, it would be easy to mistake this trendy new wine shop in Lucerne for an overpriced wine bar reserved for the Swiss elite but this myth is quickly dispelled the minute you enter and are greeted like an old friend. The young couple who own the shop welcome guests like you are in their own living room, making casual conversation as they walk you through a free wine tasting they offer daily. By the third sip of wine you’re ready to buy all three and everything else in the store.
How can you resist? It’s clear the couple are master curators not just of wine but of the entire wine experience. No detail is spared. Cork on the countertops, oak on the floor, steel, concrete, glass, each material in the shop is one used in the wine making process.
We sat down with the owners at Vinothek Hauser to ask them a few questions.
GoGoPlaces: Can you tell us about your vision for your organic wine shop?
Stefan: We used to work for some hotels buying wine and it was our dream to have a little store to sell wines that we love from people who became friends.
GoGoPlaces: Why do you only sell organic wines?
Simona: We think every good wine has to be organic otherwise there’s chemicals and pesticides. It’s necessary to be organic to be high quality. We put it in our body it has to be high quality.
Stephan: It’s not so important to be bio labeled. The thing is the label is very expensive. For small wine producers it’s too expensive. If you buy wine on the internet it’s important to know but everything in our shop you can trust to be organic.
Simona: That’s why it’s important to us to know our winemakers. It’s a matter of trust.
GoGoPlaces: How do you pick the wines to sell?
Stefan: We look online and read the story of the wines. If it’s interesting we call them. If we like them and they like us we go to visit. We try the wine. If the wine is perfect then, finally, we ask the price. It’s the only objective way to choose wine.
GoGoPlaces You feature a photo of each winemaker by the bottles of their wine. Can you tell us a bit about why there’s pictures by each wine?
Stephan: The idea behind the pictures is that it’s not us who makes the wines. We’re just selling the product but we want to show the people the wine they drink tonight is from this person. We have to know each and every product.
GoGoPlaces: Can you tell us about one of the winemakers?
When we were working in the hotel, there was a couple that came in and just stayed in the wine cellar. They didn’t come up even when the kitchen was closing. Finally, they asked who is the crazy guy who made this selection of wine. I said it was us and we started talking. The next day they came back to say hey we’re making some wine, can we leave a few bottles with you? They left two bottles and they were the very bottles that we’d been looking for for years that you can’t get in Switzerland. We couldn’t believe it.
Simona: Since then, we’ve become good friends and visit them two or three times a year in the South of France. This year we made a wine with them.
GoGoPlaces: I’ll be honest, I knew nothing about Swiss wine before I came to Lucerne. How would you describe wines in Switzerland?
Switzerland is divided by the alps. Each region is close together but has a completely different climate. In the south of Switzerland it’s just Merlot. Really powerful, strong, full body wine. It’s a hot region in the Italian part of Switzerland. Just on the other side of the alps you find pinot noir, white wine grapes that are very fresh. Its just drive a few kilometers away and completely different.
GoGoPlaces: Now I know Swiss wine is amazing but why do I never see it outside of Switzerland?
Because they drink it all. The production is so small. It’s not like the big vineyards in France or Italy. it’s just small vineyards. Everything has to be done by hand, so it’s a higher price and if you add taxes to export it gets too expensive to make sense.
GoGoPlaces: You have the winemaker’s photo and story next to each bottle. Can you tell us about one of your favorite Swiss winemakers?
Stephan: These two guys (pictured) are father and son. The father started in 1970 and they make what we call “character wines” they’re not mainstream. It’s very specialized.
Simona: Most of the grapes are pinot noir but each vineyard has its own characteristics. Each family member has their own plot in the vineyard and make their own wine. This one is powerful strong like the father. It has a lot of character and edges, it’s not easy drinking. From the son it’s more modern, round and smooth. This one is classic and elegant like the mother.
They want to make wines that you can keep for years. Right now you can only buy the 2016. They keep it in their cellar and don’t sell it until they think it’s perfect to drink.
Simona: He’s a crazy guy. A normal wine and dine the wine maker says this is how the wine is made, in this type of barrel etc. He tells stories that aren’t about wine at all. Just some funny stories or philosophic stories then ends by saying and this is pinot noir.
Stephan: To him wine tasting is do you like the wine or not and we fill your glass with what you like. He’s a legendary wine maker in Switzerland. He’s just doing what he wants and if you don’t like it, he doesn’t care.
He once kicked a guest out of his tasting for saying it was a bad wine. He went to him and said, you can’t tell a winemaker it’s bad wine. No good wine maker makes bad wine. You can say you don’t like the wine, but it’s not bad wine.
GoGoPlaces: What about some of the German wines you have? That’s another place I don’t know much about their wine.
Stephan: When we started people said if you want to sell German wine in Switzerland you’ll close in 2 weeks. They think it’s bad quality.
We’ve been here for 2 years now and 80% of our wines are German. The tasting is so important here. In the beginning it was hard. Now people are coming in asking for German wines.
GoGoPlaces: What should we know about German wines?
Stephan: The soil is perfect for Merlot and with the changing climate, the weather is getting warmer. It’s now possible to grow a very good Merlot in Germany.
Wine needs very specific conditions – hot in day, cold at night, a lot of water but also period of not a lot of water. You have that in Germany now it’s perfect. And also in Switzerland.
Visit Vinothekhauser.com to see their full wine selection. You won’t be disappointed.