Swiss Wine Regions

Ticino Wine Region: Switzerland’s Home of Merlot

bellinzona ticino vinyard

Welcome to Ticino, Switzerland’s sunny, Italian-speaking home of Merlot. Although the climate in Ticino ultimately proved to be ideal for Merlot, it wasn’t until 1906 that this venerable grape found its way there from Bordeaux.

With well-sited vineyards and the highest density of quality wine makers in Switzerland, Ticino wines have no problem holding their own on an international level. The Merlot del Ticino can vary from relatively light to as full-bodied as a traditional Bordeaux.

Originally part of the Duchy of Milan and fully part of Italy for a while, Ticino wasn’t incorporated into the Swiss Confederation until the 15th Century. Although under Swiss sovereignty, not much effort was made to integrate Ticino into the Swiss Confederation before 1803. Today Ticino’s Italian culture still remains firmly in hand.

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The Wine Grapes of Switzerland

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.

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.

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.

Water for oxen, wine for kings.

Spanish Proverb

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