• The original idea of the Tourmentin, a Pinot Noir aged in oak casks, was born in January 1983 (the blend, consisting of Pinot Noir, Cornalin, Humagne Rouge and Syrah, was created in 1988). In those days, no winemaker aged their wine in casks. It was considered that Swiss wine did not merit wooden casks. The Technical School in Changins even removed the topic from their curriculum!

    The Rouvinez brothers, however, thought differently. They had the grapes but lacked the know-how. Dominique Rouvinez thus decided to attend a three-year course at the faculty of oenology at the University of Bordeaux. During 3 weeks per year, he discovered the secrets of this special trade in order to avoid any unnecessary beginner’s mistakes. He then left for Beaune in Burgundy with his wife Anita to buy 10 barriques which they then brought back to the Colline de Géronde. This was the beginning of our wonderful Tourmentin adventure…

The creation of the name

  • The ten casks were ready for the first vintage. The Pinot Noir grapes originated exclusively from vineyards located in the Sierre region from very old vines which were over 30 years old and producing very few grapes. They were thus ideal for being enhanced to create elegant and powerful wine of the same standard as the great Bourgogne wines which were so dear to Dominique! After the vinification in vats, the wine was then filled into the famous oak casks located in the equally famous tunnel of the Colline de Géronde cellars. Now a name needed to be found. Time wasn’t an issue – the wine was to remain in the casks for 12 months. The Rouvinez brothers had the idea of launching a competition in search of a name which should be strong, original, surprising, innovative, slightly eccentric but not shocking. Finally, the Maison Roth & Sauter in Denges and its owner at the time, Jean-Michel Borel won the prize for the most original name. When stopping by at the Gérone during the 1983 harvest, he became mesmerised by the “torments” of a tank of wine in strong fermentation. The name “Le Tourmentin” thus was born. The trademark was then registered in Bern. Today, more than thirty years later, we do not simply drink a good bottle of wine but we drink a Tourmentin!

The incredible history of AOC as a protected designation of origin

  • The AOC label (Appelation d’Origine Contrôlée) was introduced in Valais as late as 1990. Its aim was to promote the production of quality grapes and wines. The following three categories were created : category 1 for AOC quality wines, category 2 wines with an indication of origin and finally category 3 wines with no additional information than red, rosé or white wine, or simply wine.

    However, the legislators had forgotten a type of wine which was just getting started: the blended wines. No article of the Law was dedicated to protect wines composed of various grape varieties. It was thus an irony of history that the Tourmentin, consisting of AOC grapes was not eligible for the AOC label. It was thus not awarded the classification for three years. This situation thus forced the legislators to take another look at the situation in order to amend the ordinance. Finally, in 1993 the Cantonal council of Valais approved of Art. 36 of the Ordinance on Valais Wine Classification. It stipulates that these wines must to be marketed under a registered trade mark followed by an “R” or their name must be followed by the indication “registered trade mark”, all of which must appear on the label.

Controversy regarding the price

  • At the end of the 1980s the price for a bottle of red wine was around CHF 12. A bottle of white wine cost around CHF 8. Although some daring winemakers already vinified specialties such as Cornalin, Petite Arvine or Heida, these variations did not yet have the renown they have today. People mainly drank Fendant, Dôle and Pinot Noir.

    This is where the Tourmentin came in. This wine needed a much longer and more careful ageing. In the vineyards, a rigorous selection of grapes was already being carried out. The extraction of the colour and tannins from a variety as delicate as the Pinot Noir and its ageing in oak casks. This needed especially meticulous work, calling for fine and delicate skills and delicacy to be developed as Rouvinez had only just started in this field. The cost of CHF 25 per bottle thus quickly provoked a polemic since this was considered to be far too expensive for a Swiss wine. But it quickly established itself as a premium product especially in gastronomy where it became indispensible for all good restaurants. Over the years the Rouvinez family has always refused to significantly increase the price of the Tourmalin in spite of its growing renown. Today, private customers can purchase this wine for CHF 32.50, exceptional value for money for this rare wine full of subtlety and elegance.

Bottle shape

  • A fitting bottle shape was needed for such an excellent cru as the Tourmentin. After various tests, the Rouvinez brothers decided on the “Elite” bottle shape typical of the Bordeaux region. This was a futuristic model at that time since it was the first time that bottles of this type had been used in Switzerland. The only problem was that the bottling line was not at all adapted to this bottle variety. It was thus necessary to adapt numerous parameters; the conical form of the bottles was technically very difficult to fill and thus necessitated slower working. Moreover, three more personnel were needed to work along the bottling line to ensure that the bottles did not fall from the conveyor belts. The length of the cork and the capsules for sealing the bottles as well as the size of the label all posed problems.

    But these challenges did not stop the Rouvinez brothers. On the contrary! As usual, it boosted their quest for excellence!


Domaines Rouvinez