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

Humagne Rouge

An alpine red variety that is a specialty in Valais, this vine is no relation to the similarly named Humagne Blanche. Humagne Rouge is a hardy, late ripening grape whose planted surface has increased largely during the last 20 years. It produces a fine wine, low in tannin with a slightly wild character that is ideal with game dishes.

Bondola

An indigenous and ancient red grape from Ticino, Bondola has slightly higher acidity and lower alcohol, and produces a good simple table wine, often called Nostrano.

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.

Age appears to be best in four things--old wood best to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust, and old authors to read.

L. Bacon

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