Swiss Wine Regions

Mais Oui, Geneva

First joining the Swiss confederation in 1815, the canton of Geneva lies in the Rhône valley between Jura and the Alps. Almost surrounded by France, and one of the smallest cantons, it is one of Switzerland's most important wine regions. Geneva is Switzerland's 3rd largest Swiss wine region and accounts for about 10% of national production. Wine production has gone on uninterrupted here on Lake Geneva and around the city for almost 2,000 years.

Often going under the alias "Perlan", the Chasselas grape is the principal white wine grape of Geneva and it accounts for over half of the white wine production. However Geneva does well internationally with the more well known wine grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot gris, Pinot blanc, Riesling Silvaner (Müller Thurgau), Sauvignon blanc, Gewürztraminer, Scheurebe and Aligoté.

As for the red wine grapes in the Geneva wine region, Gamay does particularly well in this area resulting in a dense, fruity wine. In Geneva you will also find Cabernet sauvignon, Gamaret, Garanoir, Kerner, Merlot, Pinot noir and Syrah. It's worth mentioning that a recent flurry of top international awards for Swiss Syrah wines have focused attention on Switzerland.

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The Wine Grapes of Switzerland

Johannisberg

Second in white wines of Valais (after Fendant). The name Johannisberg is only used in Valais; the rest of French-speaking Switzerland call it Gros Rhin. The grape used to make Johannisberg is the Grüner Sylvaner. The origin of the grape is not clear. On the one hand it strongly resembles the Roman Apianisien (loved by bees) grape, as described by Pliny the Elder in his “Historia naturalis”, on the other hand, its more likely birthplace is in Romanian Transylvania.

Humagne Blanche

Only planted in Valais today, Humagne blanche* is another of the very old Swiss grapes, probably brought in by the Romans. Having a high iron content, and supposedly health-giving properties, this wine was decreed a “health wine” (Krankenwein) for centuries. The old written documents in which this wine is referred to as vinum hum-anum date from the 12th and 14th Centuries. It’s also called Kinderbettenwein or baby crib wine. I’ll bet those kids didn’t have much to cry about.

*no relation to the Humagne Rouge

Kerner

Named after local poet and physician, Justinus Kerner, the Kerner grape was hybridized in 1929 in Lauffen in the Württemberg region. A hybrid of the white Riesling and the red Trollinger (Schiava grossa), it resembles the Riesling in character. It is being vinified in limited quantities in Valais, but its future in Valais dosen’t look too bright. It continues to do well in Germany, and on a smaller basis in Austria and Italy.

Wine is at the head of all medicines; where wine is lacking, drugs are necessary.

Talmud

Swiss Alps, cows, wine bottle and large clock face in Bern, Switzerland

Fine Swiss Wine

Discover Switzerland’s odd grapes, small producers, and eclectic tastes