SwissWino had the privilege to visit La Capitaine, the bio winery located in Begnins, and observe their wine bottling and labeling process. During the visit I had the opportunity to sit down and interview the owner and winemaker, Reynald Parmelin, who graciously took time out of his busy schedule to meet with me.
You probably have had their wine, some of the best bio wine in Switzerland or at least seen their very distinctive blue bottles in wine shops. They have been making quality bio wines for more than 20 years. I recommend it!
10 Questions Interview with Reynald Parmelin
Question 1: Can you give us a brief introduction and your background?
“The Parmelin family has a long tradition in the wine business, going back eight generations. My brother, sister, and cousin are also winemakers. I am the youngest in the family and have traveled all over the world, working in the wine industry in Australia, New Zealand, California and France. I gained a lot of wine growing and winemaking knowledge during my travels and worked with many grape varieties.
I returned to Switzerland and founded La Capitaine in 1994. We’ve been making organically grown wine ever since. La Capitaine grows 21 different grape varieties and produces 170,000 bottles of wine per year so for Switzerland it is a fairly large family wine business.”
Question 2: Tell us about your family history in winemaking
“The Parmelin family is from Bursins, Switzerland and is very well known with a long history of winemaking in what is known as the La Cote wine region in the canton of Vaud.”
Reynald is not far from his family roots, only a few small villages away in Begnins.
“My brother took over the family winery in Bursins from my father and I first started with a renting a small wine cellar, and then eventually buying the property from the original owner. We have expanded to 22 hectares surrounding the property today.”
It is a magnificent property with views of Mont Blanc and Lac Leman. He has a home on the property as well as an updated tasting room and banquet reception hall with a full professional kitchen for hosting large events and dinners.
Question 3: Tell us about La Capitaine terroir and grapes grown
“The most important and largest amount of grapes grown at the winery are of the Chasselas varietal for the white wine and Gamaret for the red wines. Merlot production is increasing, and Johaniter from the whites. We have been very successful producing a consistent Merlot for the past few years. Merlot does not require as much sun and dry hot weather as some other grapes and does well in this region.”
They make an award-winning Chasselas. It is the most common white wine in the region and their most popular seller. “Many people like to have Chasselas with cheese, fondue and fish dishes. It is also the most inexpensive wine, so many customers buy it as their everyday wine and by the rarer more expensive wines for special occasions, weekends, parties, etc. We want to provide an affordable quality wine that our local customers can buy.”
Question 4: What are the wines that La Capitaine produces?
“There are seven white wines we offer: Chardonnay, Chasselas, Collection Agénor 1er Grand Cru, Gewurztaminer, Johanniter, Pinot Gris, and Sauvignon Gris. As for red wines, we have five varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot, Diolinoir-Galotta, Merlot-Syrah, Gamaret-Merlot, and a Pinot Noir.
We also have a Rosé de Pinot and a sparkling Rosé wine or vin mousseux in French. We make a Grappa or eaux de vie as well. And for the kids we have a bio apple juice from our apple orchard.”
The La Capitaine winery has won some several prestigious awards for their wines both in Switzerland, Grand Prix du Vin Suisse, and internationally.
Their Chardonnay won BSW – Best of Swiss Wine prize, the Chasselas won the 2016 Lauriers d’Or Terravin, which is for the best of the Vaud wine regions. The Johanniter is a favorite and has won three gold medals. The Sauvignon Gris also won a silver medal. The Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot has received recognition among the reds. The Pinot Noir won an award in 2016. Their Collection Agénor is a Premier Grand Crus of Vaud.
Question 5: How did you get involved in making biodynamic wine?
“My father’s wine though not officially bio, but many years ago he stopped using harmful toxic pesticides on his vines and used more natural methods. So, I was very aware of growing grapes naturally and sustainably. I got involved in organic wine production due to my overseas travel, visiting several organic vineyards in Australia and California raised my interest in it.”
Upon his return to Switzerland, Reynald worked as a professor and taught organic wine grape growing and cultivation for seven years at the famous Changins Ecole du Vin.
After his teaching stint, he wanted to start his own organic wine growing business and that is how La Capitaine was born.
His brother also started producing organic wine about five years ago at the family vineyard in Bursins as well. They make some very good wines too.
What are the benefits of bio wine? “No chemicals or synthetic products in the wine. No nitrogen used, so the grapes stay small, less water content, thus more flavors and characteristics of the grape in my opinion. Less sulfites are also used, the minimum required in Switzerland.”
What are some challenges? “Because no chemical herbicides/pesticides are used on the vines it requires much more manual work in the vineyard, more regular daily maintenance of the soil and leaves. It’s also more challenging because the climate in Switzerland is damper than some other areas like parts of France or Spain which are drier and have less issues with mold and fungus growths.”
Question 6: Any upcoming events where people can taste your wines?
“The cave is open every Saturday morning from 9-12 so that customers can stop by and pick up some wine. No appointment is required and you can taste all our wines as well.
In addition, La Capitaine is participating in the Caves Ouvertes Vaudoises coming up this weekend, 3rd-4th June, 9h-17h. There will be some additional open cellars for tasting that we are hosting in 2017: 16 June, 9h-17h; 2 September, 9h-17h; 4-5th November, 10h-17h.
We also host some food and wine pairing events.”
You can check their website for more information: www.lacapitaine.ch
SwissWino will be adding these events to the Events Calendar on our blog:
Question 7: How was the 2016 vintage harvest?
“We had a really good harvest, after a bad spring, luckily we had a very good summer and end of season. There were some issues with fungus early on but we did not lose any grapes because of it. So we were quite happy with the results. You’ll be able to taste some of the new wines in the upcoming Caves Ouvertes!”
Question 8: Our neighbors, France and Italy have had a terrible spring and are reporting extensive frost damage this year, also in parts of Switzerland as well. How has it been for the La Cote region of Vaud and your vineyard in particular?
“We were very fortunate in the region not to have the frost issues that some other regions have had. It was colder than normal in April, but because we are close to Lac Leman, we benefit from the lake effect, which warms the air a few degrees, so they were not impacted like some of the neighboring regions and higher altitudes. The wind also helps move the air and keeps it warmer as well and drier so that helps against frost collecting on the leaves and vines. We noticed some frost on the ground but luckily that was the extent of it.”
Question 9: La Capitaine has a lovely tasting room, banquet area. How can people get more info, and book the space? What type of events do you host?
“On the website you can see what events we have had, like weddings, corporate events, team building. We also schedule some gastronomic events where we have excellent chefs from the region come in and make a dinner plan and La Capitaine selects wines to compliment the various servings. You can subscribe to our newsletter to get notified and also check the website for updates.”
Question 10: What is it you like to do in your free time that’s not related to wine?
“I love to travel, usually not far from a wine region! I like to visit and learn about other regions, their wine history, experience their vineyards first-hand, observe their methods, taste their wines and get ideas for my winery. I also enjoy my family time very much which includes watching my two sons play football in Gland. They are playing for some very good teams.
Other than that, I like to just relax in my garden and enjoy some wine with good friends.”
Please make sure to include La Capitaine on your list of wineries to visit during the Caves Ouvertes! Get to meet Reynald, his lovely wife Susanne and rest of the knowledgeable and friendly staff in a beautiful setting.
Tell them SwissWino sent you! Cheers!