A speciality of Neuchâtel: "Non-Filtré"

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Text: Chandra Kurt, PHoto: swisswine

Chandra's Cooking with Wine

The Non-Filtré wine from the canton of Neuchâtel offers impatient wine lovers a pre-taste of the new vintage. When this speciality is bottled at the start of January without being filtered, the fermentation process is already complete.

Most wines sold on the market are filtered, which gives them a shiny colour in the glass. Chasselas Non-Filtré, a speciality from Neuchâtel, is an exception to this rule. Already cloudy, it gets even darker after lightly shaking the bottle to bring up the yeast residue. Even in the glass, it is never as transparent as a traditional Chasselas, its colour looking more like that of fresh grape must.

Most vintages are filtered out of concern that customers will think a cloudy wine is not good. They are misled by purely visual factors, but in fact a non-filtered wine is often more interesting than others. Such a shame!

The crucial role of yeast

When the grape must is filtered, the yeast residue remains in the filters. Yeast is essential for making wine. It lives on the surface of freshly harvested mature grapes. The yeast uses the grape sugar to begin the process of alcoholic fermentation. These days, cellar masters prefer to use cultured yeast, in order to better control the fermentation process. Once the juice has no more sugar for transforming into alcohol, the yeast dies and falls to the bottom of the vat. This entirely harmless residue can even improve the wine's storage potential.

Overly fine filtering can deprive the wine of precious components and some of the substances that contribute to its quality. That's why some of the greatest vintages in the world are only lightly filtered, or not filtered at all.

Born of a poor harvest

Non-Filtré wine first appeared in 1974, a year of scarcity for white wine throughout the canton due to a poor harvest. In response to the demand of "thirsty" customers, one cellar decided to bottle part of its production without filtering the wine. After an enthusiastic reception from wine lovers, wine growers decided to keep producing it every year. This wine, which now represents 10 % of production, is presented on the third Wednesday of January in the Neuchâtel Town Hall. That's where you can taste and discover its exhilarating freshness and balance.

In culinary terms, a Non-Filtré wine goes well with cheese dishes, both cold and hot, particularly an aged Sbrinz. Dryer with more minerality than most common Chasselas wines, it makes a marvellous apéritif, and also goes well with salty dishes, fish in cream sauce and pâtés.

Find out more: www.neuchâ