Swiss Wine Regions

Luzern; a Geological Mixed Bag

Luzern collageWine lives in the heart of Switzerland, and the heart of Switzerland is Zentralschweiz; the historic and mythological origin of the Swiss Confederation. It's here that on November 18, 1307, as punishment for his defiance, William Tell was forced to shoot an apple off his son's head. Tell's defiance kindled the revolt that ultimately led to the formation of the Swiss Confederation.

In the heart of Zentralschweiz is Luzern (Lucerne). The sunny slopes of the vineyards here are concentrated in the wine sub-regions of Seetal, Vierwaldstättersee, Wiggertal and Sempachersee. Two lakes provide a regulating influence to the climate across the area and the varied geology gives the wine of the sub-regions subtle variations in character.

The biggest wine sub-region in canton Luzern is Seetal. Here, the high concentrations of limestone give the wine a sturdy structure.

In Vierwaldstättersee, the Föhn (warm southerly wind said to cause headaches and erratic behavior) encourages early budding of the grapevines and optimal ripening of the grapes. Add the rich soil and the result is a Swiss wine with finesse and elegance.

Wiggertal has the warmest and driest zones in canton Luzern. The high clay content of soil on the steep southern slopes of the vineyards offer the ideal conditions for grapevines, producing a variety of Swiss wines with character.

The smallest wine sub-region in Luzern is Sempachersee. It's also the newest. The vineyards on the moraine hills benefit from well draining soil and the many hours of sunshine, yielding harmonious and balanced wines.

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The Wine Grapes of Switzerland

Gouais Blanc

A promiscuous grape. Not good for much, but with a long, long line of descendents, including the noble Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Possibly from Croatia, it’s called Heunisch Weiss in Central Europe.

The name Gouais is comes from ‘gou’, which is a scornful word from old French referring to its standing as the grape of the peasants. Very prevalent in the Ile-de-France and in the Champagne during the Middle Ages and perhaps brought into Valais by the descendants of the Ligurians.

Acidic and with little residual sugar, it’s primarily used to blend with low acidic wine to give it a bit of liveliness. Ampelographic studies in the old vineyards of Oberwallis have found a red Gwäss with the same characteristics as the white Gwäss. Almost abandoned, it survives in Haut-Valais hiding under the alias of Gwäss, thanks to Mr. Josef-Marie Chanton, http://www.chanton.ch/home.html

Amigne

Amigne was brought to Switzerland by the Romans. This grape can also produce a Sauternes-like late harvest wine. These wines are ready to drink in two to three years, but some can be aged.

Pinot Gris

Called Malvoisie in Valais, this grape has nothing to do with any of the Malvoisie varieties of the Muscat family and is another of the mutations of Pinot Noir. A vine grown in many of the Swiss areas, in Valais, Pinot Gris produces a fine sweet late harvest wine with honey overtones.

Drink wine, and you will sleep well. Sleep well and you will not sin. Avoid sin, and you will be saved. Ergo, drink wine and be saved.

Medieval German saying

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