Swiss Wine Regions

History

Switzerland’s wine and grapes have a long and robust history.

Weinbaumuseum am Zürichsee (Viticulture Museum)

Viticulture Museum, Au, Lake Zurich, SwitzerlandIt's rare to describe a museum as “welcoming”, but the Viticulture Museum is welcoming. Located on the peninsula Au (near Wädenswil) on Lake Zürich, the Viticulture Museum is both a museum and a focal point for people interested in Swiss wine and wine making. It offers both a historical perspective as well as addressing changes confronting Swiss winemakers today. On the day I visited they held a demonstration of barrel making, which is an endangered craft: there are currently three barrel makers in Switzerland and only one apprentice. Read more »

Amphora

A type of ceramic vase, used for transporting and storing wine in ancient times.

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Altar wine

The wine used by the Catholic Church in celebrations of the Eucharist.

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Wine is good for you

Wine has long been valued for its medicinal benefits - it figures in almost all the remedies recorded by Hippocrates, from a general antiseptic to cooling fevers. The grape has been part of the triumvirate of good throughout the middle ages, and the triumvirate are those benevolent institutions: the church, hospitals, and vineyards. Read more »

The Wine Grapes of Switzerland

Cabernet franc

Cabernet franc, one of the Bordeaux grapes, is a bit like the little brother of the Cabernet sauvignon grape. Cabernet franc is usually used for blending.

Pinot Noir

Genetic studies have revealed that Pinot Noir is probably one of the two ancestors (the other being the humble Gouais) of some of the most important vines cultivated in Europe today. It is certainly a particularly ancient variety, and originally from Burgundy. Pinot Noir, with its associated clones, is found all over Switzerland, but it is only in the eastern region that it dominates production. It is either produced as a varietal or blended with other grapes. These blends are known as Salvagnin in Vaud and Dôle in Valais. Depending on where it is grown, it can produce a wine that is either light and fruity, or rich and full-bodied.

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

Wine is bottled poetry

Robert Louis Stevenson

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