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

Riesling

A classic German white variety, Riesling (or Petit Rhin) is rare in Valais but does produce good results on the favorable schistose soils around Sion.

Pinot Gris

Called Malvoisie in Valais, this grape has nothing to do with any of the Malvoisie varieties of the Muscat family and is another of the mutations of Pinot Noir. A vine grown in many of the Swiss areas, in Valais, Pinot Gris produces a fine sweet late harvest wine with honey overtones.

Freisamer

The Freisamer plays more of a role in Graubünden but has a small presence in a few other cantons. It’s a hybrid of Silvaner x Pinot gris, developed in Freiburg in the Breisgau region. A temperamental grape that puts great demands on the type of soil and location—do I hear you say “terroir”?—it’s been trying to make a name for itself since the sixties but hasn’t really taken off.

One not only drinks the wine, one smells it, observes it, tastes it, sips it and--one talks about it.

King Edward VII

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