Swiss Wine Regions

Wine Regions of Thurgau

Map of Thurgau

Bucolic Thurgau is better known for orchards and strawberries, but this north eastern corner of Switzerland has a history of vinticulture dating back to at least the Romans. Although many of Thurgau's vineyards are near the shores of Lake Constance, a majority of Thurgau’s vineyards are scattered between the castles on the hills and in valleys of the Canton.

Once, wine production exceeded that of fruit juice, but the Thurgau wine growers adapted to changes in the Swiss wine industry—and the world wine market in general—and emphasis shifted from quantity to quality. They also set a goal of preserving and promoting wine production on rural family farms, so that today there are approximately 240 independent Thurgau wine producers, a mix of independent vintners, cooperatives and distributors. About 80 percent of Thurgau’s wine production follows integrated production guidelines.

Most wine from Thurgau comes from grapevines on south-facing hills in the north eastern corner of Thurgau, between Schaffhausen and lake Constance. Two varieties—Pinot Noir and Müller-Thurgau*—account for almost 90% of Thurgau wine production. These two grapes, however offer up quite an assortment of wine, including lively Rose, fruity white Federweisser, the "rose like" Schiller, an elegant straw wine, full-bodied barrique wine, and some exclusive ice wine.

And like elsewhere in Switzerland, the wine producers like to throw a variety of grapes, old and new, into the mix. Ten years ago there were only a handful of grape species used in Thurgau wine production. Today Thurgau adds over 20 varieties of grapes to Switzerland’s wine selection. So besides Pinot Noir, Thurgau’s red wine grapes include Gamay x Reichensteiner, Gamaret, Garanoir, Dunkelfelder, Dornfelder and Diolinoir. Alongside Müller-Thurgau, the Thurgau white wine grape camp includes Pinot gris, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonney.

Thurgau’s wine areas can be divided into 5 regions:

1) The Lauchental, south of Frauenfeld, is the smallest wine production region in Thurgau. It produces popular wines around Stettfurt, Frauenfeld and Ettenhausen (Aadorf).

2) The Thur valley is divided into three regions. The lower region of the Thur valley is the largest wine region in Thurgau, and includes Neunforn, Warth/Weiningen, Uesslingen, Dietingen and Iselisberg. Uesslingen is the largest wine making community in Thurgau. In the center of the upper Thur Valley are the wine regions of Weinfelden and Märstetten/Ottoberg. The Upper Thur valley has the smaller Thurgau wine communities of Schloss Hagenwil, Amlikon, Götighofen, Sulgen, Buchackern, und Mauren.

3) The three lakes of Seebach make for a balanced climate, and includes the communities of Dettighofen, Nussbaumen, Hüttwilen and Herden.

4) Along the River Rhine around Schlattingen, Basadingen and Diessenhofen are a few more hectares of grapevines.

5) Many of the vineyards in Untersee (lower lake) and the island of Reichenau are north or west sloping rather than the typical south-facing, but the villages of Eschenz, Mammern, Steckborn, Berlingen, Salenstein (Arenenberg), Ermatingen and Tägerwilen manage to produce fruity, aromatic Müller-Thurgau wines.

*Müller-Thurgau, oddly enough, is called Riesling x Sylvaner in Switzerland. Odd because the hybrid was developed by Hermann Müller, who was born here in Thurgau.

The Wine Grapes of Switzerland

Rèze

Rèze is an extremely rare white variety found only in Valais. Not often produced as a varietal, Rèze is blended with other Vieux Plants of Valais. Rèze was also used to make the historic “vin des glaciers”, an amber colored wine produced in Val d’Anniviers using the solera technique.

No longer done today, one method in the past was to store Rèze in larch wood barrels, which gave the wine resinous flavor similar to the Greek Retsina, and masking some grape flavor.

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

Vieux Muscat du Pays

A very old small berry Valais grape, difficult to cultivate. It is an aromatic specialty limited almost exclusively to Valais. Some clone or mutation of the Muscat is grown on almost every continent.

Age appears to be best in four things--old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read.

L. Bacon

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