Swiss Wine Regions

2009 Swiss Wine Guide

Wine information is easy to find. Swiss wine information is somewhat more elusive, and Swiss wine information in English is rare. So I have been eagerly waiting for the release of the first English version of the Swiss Wine Guide.  At last it is here.

The first Swiss Wine Guide in 2004 was published in two languages, German and French. It was a partnership between Vinea and Interprofession Suisse du Vin.

The second addition in 2006 brought a new publisher, Ringier Romandie, and added an Italian edition.

The new 2008 edition dropped the Italian language, but added an English edition for the first time. Also for the first time is a comprehensive listing of the Grand Prix du Vin Suisse 2008. To me this is a clear indication that the Swiss wine producers are starting to take marketing outside Switzerland's borders seriously.

The Swiss Wine Guide starts with an overview of Swiss grape growing and winemaking . It covers regions, grape varieties, and consumption. It follows this with a complete listing of the Grand Prix du Vin Suisse winners, indexed with details and contact information for all of them.

The main section of the Swiss Wine Guide is divided into the six main Swiss wine regions, Vaud, Valais, Ticino, German-speaking Switzerland, The three lakes (Neuchatel, Vully, Bienne Lake), and Geneva. It's then subdivided by localities, and selected producers. It highlights regional specialties, travel tips & ideas, associations overseeing quality, and portraits of 450 selected producers.

Following this is a comprehensive Index by domain name & wine producer name, and the guide concludes with a wine Glossary.

It is a dense, compact book that does a great job at presenting the wide range of Swiss wine. The book may be too big to "slip" into a pocket, but certainly small enough to pack for your trip through the Swiss wine areas. The small text size can be a problem for low light, or older eyes. However, that is a trade-off for getting so much information into a small package. At times it took some effort to unravel the English translation. But that is just a niggle.

The Swiss Wine Guide is well worth getting, whether you live here or just planning a trip through the Swiss wine regions. The Swiss wine world is so rich and diverse that without some guide it would be bewildering, and this guide is good: small; organized; comprehensive.

The guide is CHF 39 plus shipping

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.

Pinot Noir

Genetic studies have revealed that Pinot Noir is probably one of the two ancestors (the other being the humble Gouais) of some of the most important vines cultivated in Europe today. It is certainly a particularly ancient variety, and originally from Burgundy. Pinot Noir, with its associated clones, is found all over Switzerland, but it is only in the eastern region that it dominates production. It is either produced as a varietal or blended with other grapes. These blends are known as Salvagnin in Vaud and Dôle in Valais. Depending on where it is grown, it can produce a wine that is either light and fruity, or rich and full-bodied.

Syrah

A classic red grape variety transplanted from the Côtes-du-Rhône area, Syrah is still somewhat of a rarity here and is grown mainly in Valais and on well-exposed slopes. It produces a spicy, deeply colored, elegant tannic wine that ages well.

Wine is made to be drunk as women are made to be loved; profit by the freshness of youth of the splendor of maturity; do not await decrepitude.

Theophile Malvezin

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