Swiss Wine Regions

Schaffhausen, Land of Blauburgunder

Red wine grapes and red leaves

Blauburgunder, did I hear you say? Oh yeah, Schaffhausen’s nickname of Blauburgunderland is well deserved. Blauburgunder, or Pinot noir for the rest of us, is by far the dominant wine grape in Schaffhausen.

Red wine makes up nearly 70% of wine production in Schaffhausen, and most of that is Pinot noir, some of which finds itself in a nice late-harvest wine. There is also Cabernet sauvignon, Diolinoir, Garanoir, Merlot, and Regent; not to mention Dorenoir, which is a blend of Pinot noir, Regent (itself a cross) and Dornfelder.

Riesling-Sylvaner (Muller-Thurgau) is the leading white wine grape in Schaffhausen, with Chasselas, Chardonnay, Kerner, Pinot blanc, Pinot Gris, and Gewürztraminer (sometime making a flétri dessert wine), rounding out the white wine grape selection.

The Romans probably brought wine north to the canton of Schaffhausen, but it was the monks that spread the joys of wine around. The well-tended vineyards on the hills above Hallau, Oberhallau, Osterfingen, Schaffhausen, Thayngen, Trasadingen, Wilchingen, Wisental and others, benefit from warm, dry summers, cool winters, and the lowest amount of rainfall in eastern Switzerland. Today the little canton of Schaffhausen produces a rather impressive amount of wine. Good wine.

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The Wine Grapes of Switzerland

Gewürztraminer

The name Gewürztraminer is obviously German, although the origin of the grape is the Tyrollean Alps, near the village of Termeno (Tramin) in Alto Adige, Italy. Gewürz is German for spice. The vine is evidently a pain in the ass to grow and does best in cooler climates. In Germany the wine of this grape is often made off-dry, in Alsace it’s dry and floral, and in Switzerland it produces a wide range. Gewürztraminer is one of the most pungent wine varietals and reasonably easy to identify with just your nose. It is one of the few wine that can hold its own with spicy Asian food.

Planscher

Planscher belongs to a group of grapes that do well in the Alpine regions of Italy and in Valais, Switzerland. An ancient white wine grape vine once found in the Rhone valley, it was close to being extinct. Today small amounts of Planscher grow in Visperterminen, Canton Valais.

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.

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