Swiss Wine Regions

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.

The church, some of them at least, had a tradition of helping the poor, and hospitals are one way of helping, which is why many of the first hospitals were in fact started by, and were part of, Monasteries . Most of them also had the tradition of making life comfortable for their members, and wine, in addition to its medicinal uses, was both enjoyable and profitable. This symbionic relationship was well established by the time of the Barefooted Monastery near Zurich. First documented in 1247, the monastery was renamed "Holy Spirit Hospital" in 1293.

Wine's medicinal and financial properties were also the reason secular hospitals maintained extensive wine cellars. Again, this was true later in the century when the house of "Zähringer" founded the "Hospital of the poor," in the Zurich region.

The Wine Grapes of Switzerland

Aligot

Originates from Burgundy and spread through France. Originally called “Plant du Rhin” when it was brought to Geneva in the early 1900’s, and is now something of a specialty in Geneva. It was also introduced into Valais as an alternative to Johannisberg, but it didn’t fare so well and today survives in only a few small areas in Unterwallis.

Arvine

Another delivery from Rome, there are actually three Arvine grape varieties, only two used for wine production: Grand Arvine, with the larger berries, and Petit Arvine, with the, you guessed it, smaller berries. The unloved Arvine brune has faded from the scene. Grand Arvine gets criticized for displaying little character, whereas the Petit Arvine tends to have a fuller bouquet and lower acidity. In blind tasting, Petit Arvine generally kicks ass against its plumper brother. Arvine is also an excellent grape for late harvest wine, which can be cellared.

Muscat

A very ancient grape probably from Greece, Muscat Blanc is a delicate, difficult variety to cultivate. It is an aromatic specialty limited almost exclusively to Valais. Producing a fine, perfumed aperitif and dessert wine, Muscat Blanc should be served in its prime.

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

Discover Switzerland’s odd grapes, small producers, and eclectic tastes