Swiss Wine Regions

No, it’s not just Chardonnay

Wine bottles and Swiss Alps photo montageThe Swiss are eclectic, life is comfortable in Switzerland, and the Swiss have been quietly gathering the best of what's around them: you see it in the food, fashion, and lifestyle, and the collection area isn't limited to the immediate neighbors of Austria, Germany, Italy and France. The Swiss are a far traveling nation.

This Swiss eclectic nature extends to their taste in wine, in which they indulge extensively; consistently in the upper percentile of per capita wine consumption. So extensively in fact, that very little Swiss wine gets exported. Surprising when you consider that many Swiss aren't even aware that wine is produced in Switzerland at all.

Well, it is. Wine is produced in almost all of the Swiss cantons. The major Swiss wine producing Cantons are Geneva, Neuchâtel, Ticino, Valais and Vaud, but do not rule out the German-speaking areas. With a genuine interest in quality, and an adventurous attitude toward wine making, some very interesting wine is found there, only in smaller quantities.

When it comes to wine, and pretty much anything else, the Swiss are pragmatic; happily trading tradition for efficiency. How do you suppose they squeeze 1,000,000 hl (488k white/520k red) of mostly high quality wine out of just 15,000 hectares of mountainous vineyards?

However, Swiss wine makers are not just experimenting with wine making techniques, oh no, no. Planted all over Switzerland are more different types of grapes than most people know exist. There are over 60 different wine grapes in Valais alone.

What I find particularly exiting is that some Swiss vineyards are going back in time, and making wine with the indigenous and rare grapes found only here. Today in the stores you can find wine made from such exotic grapes as Heida, Gwäss (Gouais Blanc), Himbertscha, Humagne Rouge, and Eyholzer Roter. My hope is that these niche producers succeed, so they're not forced to fall in line with the "fashionable" crowd. The wine world is a richer place with alternatives - life is all about options.

Like the Swiss watches, cheese and scenery, the quality of Swiss wine is high. It also contains an astonishing variety. However, the quantities are small, so it doesn't get exported. If you want to try Swiss wine, you are just going to have to come to Switzerland and get it.

The Wine Grapes of Switzerland

Chasselas

In contrast to its native France where it wasn’t too successful as a wine grape, the Chasselas shines in Switzerland. Basically neutral in character, it reflects the nuances of the terroirs where it’s grown. Chasselas may be one of the first grape varieties ever cultivated and is one of, if not the dominant wine grapes grown in Switzerland.

Garanoir

A new variety (Gamay x Reichensteiner), developed in 1970 at Pully (Vaud), Garanoir ripens early. Can give interesting blends with Gamay, Gamaret or sometimes Pinot Noir.

Heida

From France’s Franche-Compté region, Heida is a rarity that is grown in the high vineyards of Visperterminen (Upper Valais) with the help of the warm Foehn winds. Probably brought into Valais by the Ligurians during their retreat into the mountains.

Tis better for pearls to pass through the lips of swine than good wine to pass through the lips of the indifferent!

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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