During the summer months, you may reach for a cold, refreshing glass of rosé wine. But, have you ever tried the Swiss rosé with an orange-pink hue known as Oeil-de-Perdrix? Here are 10 facts about this special wine from Switzerland…
1. Neuchâtel is the Swiss canton of origin for Oeil-de-Perdrix. The earliest evidence of this wine dates back to 1861, when a local encaveur named Louis Bovet printed a label with the name “Oeil-de-Perdrix” on it.
2. Oeil-de-Perdrix means “eye of the partridge” in French. The wine has this name because its color supposedly resembles the eyes of this game bird, freshly killed. A sort of gruesome, yet somewhat romantic moniker for this unique wine. It was originally used during the Middle Ages in France for the pink wines from the Champagne region.
3. Winemakers use Pinot Noir grapes to produce Oeil-de-Perdrix. Unlike a bottle of Pinot Noir, the grapes used to make this Swiss rosé have a shorter maceration period, ranging from approximately 15 to 24 hours. In Neuchâtel, more than half of the 600 hectares (about 1,500 acres) of vineyards are growing Pinot Noir grapes, about half of which are intended for making Oeil-de-Perdrix.
4. Even though Neuchâtel is credited with the birthplace of this wine in Switzerland, winemakers here did not protect its name with an AOC designation (appellation d’origine contrôlée). As a result, a bottle of Oeil-de-Perdrix made in the canton may only have “Neuchâtel AOC” on its label. Rosé wine with the Oeil-de-Perdrix name can also be made in Vaud or Valais, for example.
5. This dry wine can have an aroma of berries, such as strawberries or raspberries. As a bridge between white and red, winemakers claim it can be served with a range of dishes, including fish, poultry or red meat.
6. Oeil-de-Perdrix has a connection to White Zinfandel wine in America. In 1972, winemaker Bob Trinchero of the Sutter Home winery decided to make a rosé with the first juice separated from his Zinfandel grapes. He used this technique, called saignée, in order to make a deeper and more intense Amador County Zinfandel. Initially, they called this new experimental wine Oeil-de-Perdrix, based on the style of a French rosé. The US government agency that regulates the sale of alcohol, however, preferred an English name, and required that “White Zinfandel” also be written on the label. Eventually, the French name was dropped altogether in favor of White Zinfandel, a wine that became very popular in the US during the 1980s.
7. At the Mondial des Pinot 2018, the gold medals for Oeil-de-Perdrix went to wines from the cantons of Vaud and Valais. Held in Sierre, Switzerland, this international competition for wines made from Pinot Noir grapes included entries from 21 countries. Four wineries from the canton of Neuchâtel took home the silver medal.
8. An American sommelier declared Oeil-de-Perdix as the “Best Rosé to Impress a Wine Snob.” Victoria James, co-author of Drink Pink: A Celebration of Rosé, also refers to it as a rosé “that’s a little geeky,” as most Americans have never tasted a Swiss wine. In the US, you might be able to find a Swiss Oeil-de-Perdrix produced by the Domaine de Montmollin or Château d’Auvernier.
9. You can use Oeil-de-Perdrix wine for cooking and baking. For example, Chef Claude Frôté of the Michelin-starred Le Bocca restaurant in St. Blaise has a recipe for Brochette de palée à l’œil-de-perdrix — skewered palée, a local lake fish, cooked in a sauce made with this wine. Another recipe from the canton of Neuchâtel uses Oeil-de-Perdrix for a dessert. Tarte à l’oeil-de-perdrix has a sweet filling flavored with a little cinnamon. Also, at least two food specialties made in Neuchâtel contain Oeil-de-Perdrix: Le Britchon, a semi-hard cheese that’s brushed with this wine during the aging process, and chocolate truffles à l’Oeil-de-Perdrix from Wodey-Suchard.
10. Each year, Neuchâtel hosts a special dégustation event for its Oeil-de-Perdrix. Held in June at the Péristyle de l’Hôtel-de-Ville, the event gives local winemakers the chance to introduce their new vintage to the community. In all, more than two dozen winemakers from the canton typically participate in this event.
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- Pilot, Andie, Drink Like the Swiss, Bergli Books (2018).