Swiss Wine Regions

2008: a Fine Year for Swiss Wine

Swiss Wine Grape Harvest 2008, Zurich, by A. Haenni"So how good was the 2008 Swiss wine harvest?"

Well, thank you for asking, because it was a close one. The hail storms in some areas of Switzerland didn't cause too much damage, but the bad weather in the early fall had the Swiss wine growers skittish. Fortunately Bacchus proved accommodating. A pleasant Indian summer followed with gentle breezes and sunny days. In the end the Swiss wine growers were more than satisfied.

Warm sunny days and cool evenings are ideal for wine grapes. The grapes are able to mature, develop excellent sugar levels, and be harvested at the best time of the year. Although, "not the best we've seen these past ten years," says Thierry Walz, a member of the Swiss Wine Exporters' Association, but comparable to 2006, one of the best recent vintages. The Chasselas and Pinot Noir grapes particularly benefited.

Yields were 3.5% higher as well, according to the Swiss Department of Agriculture, up roughly 35, 000 hectoliters to 1, 075,561 hectoliters .

The Wine Grapes of Switzerland

Sémillon

Hard to believe that Sémillon’s main claim to fame is its propensity to rot, but because of its soft skin Sémillon is prone to Botrytis cinerea (a.k.a. “noble rot”). The “rot” concentrates the acid and sugar in the grape, and the resulting wine can be complex, rich, sweet, and aromatic. In short: pretty damn nice. The best known of this sweet style wine is Sauternes, coming from the Sauternais region of the Graves, near Bordeaux in France.

Sémillon can also make an elegant dry white wine, but since it can be short on acidity, it is often vinified with Sauvignon blanc.

Gamaret

A new variety, developed in 1970 at Pully (Vaud), Gamaret is enjoying a growing success with producers and consumers alike. It produces a wine that is richly coloured and well-structured with sometimes-spicy notes that ages well. Gamaret is a cross between Gamay and Reichensteiner (a white grape.)

Humagne Blanche

Only planted in Valais today, Humagne blanche* is another of the very old Swiss grapes, probably brought in by the Romans. Having a high iron content, and supposedly health-giving properties, this wine was decreed a “health wine” (Krankenwein) for centuries. The old written documents in which this wine is referred to as vinum hum-anum date from the 12th and 14th Centuries. It’s also called Kinderbettenwein or baby crib wine. I’ll bet those kids didn’t have much to cry about.

*no relation to the Humagne Rouge

Wine is at the head of all medicines; where wine is lacking, drugs are necessary.

Talmud

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