Qu’est-ce que c’est ce non-filtré?
Well, it’s just as wine was to our great, and sometimes great, great grandparents. These crystal clear, ruby red or golden libations we’re all so accustomed to are rather recent developments in the long evolution of Neuchâtel wines which began in the year 998 (really, 998!) They come to be this way when the lees (yeast) are meticulously strained off in a process called racking which takes place after fermentation, sometimes long after; especially in the case of many whites which are aged <<sur lie.>> It wasn’t until the 20th century that this process came into vogue and before that, most wines were of course, quite simply, unfiltered. But the process became refined, as did the vino until complete clarification became the norm.
So non-filtré isn’t really a “new thing,” but a reincarnation of the old way of doing things which was all but forgotten until the sécheresse de ’74 when the drought affected harvest was profoundly diminished and thus fewer bottles produced. By June 1976, locals at La Golée, in Auvernier had drunk every drop of Chasselas and (egads!) the 1975 vintage hadn’t been bottled yet! What to do, what to do..... (I’m imagining restless Swiss in laderhosen with pitchforks.) Eventually cave owner Henri-Alexandre Godet, is convinced to make his way downstairs and pour a few bottles of unfiltered wine directly from the barrels.
It is so well received that it becomes a local specialty brought fourth every January in a highly anticipated ceremony at l’Hôtel de Ville de Neuchâtel. This year’s ouverture will be on the 16th and nary a bottle can be sold before. As such, de Montmollin, our neighbor and favorite vintner didn't even bottle theirs ‘till very recently. Local friends, you are welcome to attend the dégustation at Péristyle de l'Hotel de Ville de Neuchâtel (16h30 - 20h30) or Thursday at la salle Ton sur Ton (Rue du progrès 48 à La Chaux-de-Fond - 16h30 - 20h30)
In 2012, more than 30 wineries throughout the canton will produce a Chasselas non-filtré. Before opening a cold bottle (and it should be very, very cold,) gently turn it on its side holding the neck with one hand and the base in the palm of the other. Quickly and smoothly rotate half turns from the base until the lees become suspended and the whole bottle cloudy. Open and enjoy with hors d'oeuvres or lake fish!