The Swiss love wine and drink quite a lot. With a per capita consumption of 37 litres per year, Switzerland ranks 4th in the world ranking! Only the Portuguese, French and Italians drink more wine than we do! But the Swiss do not only consume diligently, in Switzerland also top wines are produced. You can find out everything about the most important wine regions and the best Swiss wines here.
The best wine regions of the country
Valais – the land of the sun and exciting grapes
The Valais is known as Switzerland’s sunny spot and is spoiled by the sun in the truest sense of the word. The canton is one of the driest areas in Switzerland. The Valais, with its 4,900 hectares of vineyards, is the largest wine region in Switzerland. The soil is very stony and airy, so the vines can grow well. It also gives the Valais wines their typical mineral taste.
The vineyards are mostly located on steep southern slopes to the right of the river Rhône. These steep slopes make it impossible to work the vines with machines, which makes the cultivation very complicated.
The sunny and dry climate and the varied soil conditions lead to a rich selection of interesting wines and exciting grape varieties. These include the fruity white grape Petite Arvine, the robust Marsanne blanche, the changeable Heida (= Sauvignon blanc) and the famous Amige from Vétroz, from which excellent sweet wines are made.
But the best known is probably the Fendant. Fendant is a Chasselas variety and a protected term only for Valais wines. The Chasselas variety accounts for about half of the white wine vine area in Valais, followed by Johannisberg (Gros Rhin), Pinot gris (residual sweet = Malvoisie), Chardonnay, Weißburgunder and Sauvignon blanc.
The red wine is dominated by the Pinot Noir grape. In addition, there are some indigenous varieties whose names are usually only known within the national borders. These include the rugged Cornalin (Landroter) and the fruity Humagne rouge.
Another special highlight in Valais is the sweet wines marketed under the “Grain Noble ConfidenCiel” label.
Vaud – home of the Chasselas
The Vaud region has a similar climate to the Valais. Due to the protection of the Alps there is relatively little wind and precipitation and the advantages of the foehn for the vine can be used optimally.
Switzerland’s second largest wine-growing region can be divided into four areas:
- La Côte stretches along the west side of Lake Geneva, with Féchy and Mont-sur-Rolle in the centre.
- Lavaux, which stretches from Lausanne to Vevey and Montreux, includes the two Grand Crus Dézaley and Calamin, which rise between Epesses and St. Saphorin on steep terraced slopes above the lake.
- At the eastern end of the lake begins the Chablais, which extends to Yvorne and Aigle and to the south to the vineyards around Bex and Ollon.
- Northern Vaud includes the names Bonvillars, Côtes de l’Orbe and Vully around Lake Neuchâtel.
In more than 60 percent of the area Chasselas is cultivated. This thousand-year-old grape variety, which originates from the Lake Geneva region, presents itself very differently depending on its origin, as its character is strongly influenced by the soil. There is the slightly neutral as well as the earthy wine. The wines generally have little acidity, mostly have a lower alcohol content and are therefore very digestible.
The “Mondial du Chasselas” was created in 2012 in honour of this grape variety. This competition is dedicated to the preservation, promotion and image building of the Chasselas. Over the last three years, the international jurors have evaluated approximately 650 Chasselas wines from Switzerland, Germany, Canada, France, Hungary, New Zealand and the USA per competition. Chasselas undisputedly deserves the title “King of White Wines” in Switzerland.
Among the red wines, Gamay, Pinot Noir and the two relatively new varieties Gamaret and Garanoir account for more than 85 percent of production. Gamaret and Garanoir were crossed from Gamay and Reichensteiner and are therefore genetically siblings. They are used in the cuvée because of their good tannin structure and deep red colour.
Geneva and its three regions
The Lake Geneva region is the third largest wine-growing region in Switzerland.
The Geneva region is divided into three areas. The most important of these is the Mandement, on the right bank of the Rhône, where the well-known wine-growing villages of Satigny and Peissy are located. The hilly landscape at the western end of Lake Geneva is ideal for growing a wide variety of grapes. The mild climate and mineral soils characterise the wines.
The white wines are dominated by the Chasselas. Grape varieties such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Pinot Gris as well as Viognier have become more and more important in recent years. Some wine growers also cultivate the rare grape variety Altesse, from which very full-bodied wines are made.
Gamay is the undisputed number one red wine variety. It produces uncomplicated fruity wines. Pinot Noir and Gamaret follow at a clear distance.
Ticino – home of the Merlot grape
The southernmost canton of Switzerland is the fourth largest wine-growing canton in the country. Ticino wines have a special position among Swiss wines. The climate is almost Mediterranean with warm to hot summers and humid and mild winters. The ideal climate for the cultivation of the Merlot grape, which dominates 88 percent of Ticino’s vineyards.
Fresh, white-pressed Merlots are marketed under the name Bianco di Merlot. The variety has been established since the middle of the last century and is today the most successful grape variety in the area.
The other Bordeaux varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec are cultivated on about 27 hectares. There are also other red wine grapes such as Nebbiolo and Bondola. However, these make up only a small percentage.
With 46 hectares, Chardonnay dominates the white grape varieties. Some winegrowers still plant the vines after the so-called pergola education. There are numerous small and part-time winegrowers who deliver the grapes to the cantinas (cooperatives).
Neuchâtel, Lake Biel and Vully: the region of the three lakes
The so-called Three Lakes Region is made up of Lake Neuchâtel, Lake Biel and Lake Murten. Especially at Lake Neuchâtel, the wines of the Chasselas are very diverse. Under the name “Sternwein” one knows particularly sparkling wines.
At the beginning of southern Lake Biel, the Chasselas loses its dominance due to the change from mineral soils to heavier soils. The fresh fruity Oeil-de-perdrix – an uncomplicated rosé wine, which must always consist of 100 percent Pinot Noir – deserves special mention. With more than 90 percent of the red wines, the Pinot Noir leads the way.
German-speaking Switzerland – 17 cantons
The German-speaking part of Switzerland can be grouped into three areas in terms of wine technology: Basel and Aargau in the west, central Zurich, Thurgau and Schaffhausen as well as the eastern part with St. Gallen and Graubünden. In German-speaking Switzerland, the cultivation of red wine grapes clearly predominates. These are more important than white wine grapes.
The white wines are often characterised by Müller-Thurgau (formerly called Riesling x Sylvaner in Switzerland), but in recent years the Burgundy varieties and Sauvignon blanc have also caught up considerably here. There are regional specialities such as the Räuschling on Lake Zurich or the Completer on about four hectares in the Bündner Herrschaft.
Pinot noir is the leading grape for red wine. Pinot blanc is grown on three quarters of the area. It finds the best conditions at Lake Constance and in the side valleys of the Rhine in Graubünden and produces nuanced, remarkably strong red wines.
|Valais||Pinot Noir Calcaire Absolu, Histoire d’Enfer||95|
|Petite Arvine Château Lichten, Domaines Rouvinez||93–96|
|Petite Arvine Grains Nobles, Domaine des Claives, Marie-Therese Chappaz||92–95|
|Syrah de Fully Quintessence, Benoît Dorsaz||92–96|
|Vaud||St-Saphorin Les Blassinges, Pierre-Luc Leyvraz||93–94|
|Dézaley Médinette Grand Millésime, Louis Bovard||92–93|
|Yvorne Grand Cru, Château Maison Blanche||91–93|
|Brez, Domaine de la Colombe||91–93|
|Geneva||Grand’Cour, Domaine Grand’Cour||93–94|
|Villeneuve Merlot Apicius Clos du Châtelard, Charles Rolaz, Hammel SA||93|
|Bertholier Rouge, Domaine les Hutins||93|
|Servagnin Morges Grand Cru, Domaine Henri Cruchon||92|
|Three Lakes Region||Pinot Noir Auvernier Le Lerin, Maison Carrée||95|
|Pinot Noir Pur Sang, Caves de Chambleau||92–94|
|Chasselas Clos à L’AbBé, Steiner Schernelz||92-93|
|Traminer du Vully, Cru de l’Hopital||91–92|
|Ticino||Conte di Luna, Werner Stucky||95-96|
|Chardonnay Dosso, Christian Zündel||94–95|
|Balin, Kopp von der Crone Visini||93–95|
|Gran Risavier, Klausener||94|
|Montagna Magica, Huber Vini||92–94|
|Graubünden||Chardonnay, Martha und Daniel Gantenbein||95-97|
|Pinot Noir Schöpfi, Weingut Fromm||94-96|
|Pinot Noir Unique, Weingut Donatsch||95|
|Malanser Pinot Noir, Thomas Studach||94|
|Northern Switzerland||Pinot Noir Hallau Chölle, Markus Ruch||96|
|Thalheim Chalofe, Tom Litwan||94|
|Hohle Gasse Pinot Noir, Weingut Jauslin||92-93|
|Badreben Abt, Weingut Bad Osterfingen||91-93|
Swiss German goes well with Swiss wine
What could be more pleasant than sitting together in the evening with a good glass of Swiss wine? If you now invite Swiss guests, you can shine with your knowledge of local wine. But you will make even more of an impression if you can talk to your guests in Swiss German. Where do you learn that? Well in our online course. Have fun!