Swiss Wine Regions

The Föhn

Schiltorn, SwitzerlandA Föhn is a weather phenomenon that influences the climate throughout Europe and in Switzerland makes it possible to grow grape varieties in regions that would otherwise be inhospitable.

The Föhn is a dry wind that blows down the leeward slopes of mountains. The word Föhn is a generic German term originally just applied to winds in the European Alps, but Föhn is now used for all similar winds such as the Chinook in the U.S. Rockies.

A Föhn can last less than an hour or for several days, and is reputed to cause headaches and make people act odder that usual. This is called "Föhnkrankheit" (Föhn-sickness). Causation is as yet unconfirmed. However, a study at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München has found suicide and accident rates increased by 10 percent during Föhn periods in Central Europe.

The Föhn is caused when moist air flows up the windward side of a mountain. As it gains altitude the air pressure decreases, the temperature lowers, clouds form, and finally it rains. It reaches its lowest temperature as it crests the peak.

On the leeward side of the mountain the now dry wind drops and warms as it compresses because of the increasing air pressure. The temperature can be significantly higher than at the same altitude on the other side of the mountain, and the change can be dramatic: the Föhn can raise temperatures by as much as 30C (54F) in just hours. Central Europe's climate is warmer, thanks to the effects of the Föhn.

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.

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.

Marsanne Blanche

Originally from the steep slopes of the Côtes-du-Rhône, the Marsanne blanche grape found its way up the Rhone to Valais in Switzerland, and is known here under the name of Ermitage (or Hermitage).

Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart.

Ecclesiastes

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

Fine Swiss Wine

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