Swiss Wine Regions

Swiss Wine

Observations about Swiss wine and grapes, and the history of wine-making in Switzerland

The Föhn

Schiltorn, SwitzerlandA Föhn is a weather phenomenon that influences the climate throughout Europe and in Switzerland makes it possible to grow grape varieties in regions that would otherwise be inhospitable. Read more »

Grand Prix du Vin Suisse, 2008

No state support, no regional pre-selections, and no quotas, the Grand Prix du Vin Suisse competition is open to all Swiss wine producers, and reflects the eclectic range of Swiss wines. Read more »

Bern, It's Elementary

Swiss Alps, cows, wine bottle and large clock face in Bern, SwitzerlandWith the exception of the small cooperatives around Spiez, when you speak of the Bern wine region, you are speaking of the area around Lake Biel. Here on the shores of the lake, monasteries and nobles have been making wine since the Middle Ages. With the reformation in the 16th century, ownership ended up in the hands of the state, or the merchants from Bern and Biel. Since then ownership has shifted to the citizens living around the lake. Read more »

Charming Pinot Noir

Image of a glass of Pinot noirAlthough sometimes called the "queen of grapes, Pinot noir is not one of the superstars of wine, not yet at least, but it certainly has a cult following. Its subtle and mysterious nature appeals to the individualist and its versatile qualities gratify the onephile.

One could think this Burgundy grape is a criminal on the run in Switzerland, given all the names it goes by here. In the cantons of Geneva, Vaud and Neuchâtel it may be called Cortaillod or Salvagnin noir. In Ticino it's sometimes Pinot nero, and in the German-speaking areas; Blauburgunder and Klevner (or Clevner). Generally though it's Pinot noir in most of Switzerland and Blauburgunder in the German-speaking areas. Read more »

The Wine Grapes of Switzerland


The name Gewürztraminer is obviously German, although the origin of the grape is the Tyrollean Alps, near the village of Termeno (Tramin) in Alto Adige, Italy. Gewürz is German for spice. The vine is evidently a pain in the ass to grow and does best in cooler climates. In Germany the wine of this grape is often made off-dry, in Alsace it’s dry and floral, and in Switzerland it produces a wide range. Gewürztraminer is one of the most pungent wine varietals and reasonably easy to identify with just your nose. It is one of the few wine that can hold its own with spicy Asian food.


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.

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,

Cabernet will rape you and pinot noir seduces you. ... Cabernet will throw you down and rip your clothes off, and pinot noir subtly convinces you to take them off yourself.

Old French Saying

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