Mr Tobler, why did Scherer & Bühler buy Domaine Grillette?
Matthias Tobler: We made a conscious decision to acquire a production operation alongside our wholesale business in order to increase our competency. An acquisition such as this also improves the value chain for the whole group. In addition to this, we very consciously chose to invest in an estate located in the manageably-sized Neuchâtel growing area, which covers just 600 hectares and where it is easier to stand out than in Vaud, for example.
How have the last nine years been? Would you do it again?
I would buy Grillette again, although there were certain difficulties at the start. In 2013, for example, 85% of the harvest was destroyed by hail. I've never regretted the move to biodynamic wines in the same year, that was a great step forward for us. Grillette has extremely good slopes and we have not yet fully utilized their potential.
How much of a role has cellar master Annie Rossi, who was hired in 2015, had in reshaping the estate?
Hiring Annie Rossi was a real stroke of luck for us. It was Isabel Ferrando of the Domaine Saint-Préfert estate in Châteauneuf-du-Pape who tipped me off about her. Annie Rossi comes from a family of entrepreneurial thinkers, and she and I share the same basic philosophy, which is important if we want to be able to develop the estate further. Rossi quickly agreed to join us, but she wanted to arrange her interview when it was rainy and foggy to see if she would enjoy living in Cressier even in bad weather.
What are the priorities for the future?
We want to grow our grapes as sustainably as possible. In the cellar we don't employ any oenological tricks. We want our wines to have an even more definitive terroir, to be better quality and more linear with as little woodiness as possible. Our aim is to establish Grillette as one of the top Swiss wine estates, but we want our wines to be affordable for everyone.
Grillette grows 14 grape varieties. Is that not too much of a good thing?
We have made a conscious decision to cultivate so many specialities and call ourselves the watchmakers of the wine world. Watchmakers create complex mechanical timepieces. We also have complex processes and vinify each of over 80 plots ourselves, creating the various cuvées from these. If Grillette was driven by marketing, we would have to do it differently. We also want to offer every wine-lover something that suits them.
Will Domaine Grillette get any bigger?
Spanning just under 19 hectares it's already quite sizeable. We'd like to grow in a controlled way. If possible, we hope to be able to purchase further vineyards. We also own a second, independent estate, Domaine Grisoni.
Interview: Peter Keller