When I give walking tours around Zurich with Free Walk Switzerland, I often begin my tours with a question: What images, products, historical events, or stereotypes come to mind when you think about Switzerland?
The typical replies usually include some combination of banks, chocolate, cheese, and timeliness. Sometimes Roger Federer gets thrown in there, too.
Although the majority of Swiss wine is produced in the French speaking part of the country, there are still plenty of opportunities to try great wine in the northern, German-speaking cantons.
The following recommendations are all within an hour train ride outside the city of Zurich and are easily doable within a half day.
Located just North of Zurich, up near the town of Winterthur is a wine maker by the name of Nadine Saxer. Originally founded in the 1990s by Jürg Saxer, it remains a family business to this day: it is now run by Jürg’s daughter, Nadine, and her husband.
Often overshadowed by its neighbors France, Italy and Germany, you hear little about Swiss wine.
Perhaps a reflection of the diversity in culture and language in the country, Switzerland has a variety of offerings sure to please any palate.
HISTORY / OVERVIEW
The Swiss wine industry is small but mighty. Vines here amount to a mere .2% of the world’s total grape growing land. This equates to 15,000 hectares of vines in Switzerland. To give you a frame of reference, Bordeaux, one region in France, has 120,000 hectares!
Apart from being outshined by surrounding countries, Swiss wine is not well known abroad due to a low export percentage of 1.8% (all the more reason to try it while you are here!). That being said, the wine has to go somewhere; Swiss consumption is around 31 L per year per person and, according to Spanfeller Media Group, that places Switzerland within the top 10 wine-consuming countries per capita in the world. Continue reading Let me introduce you to Swiss wine…the perfect pairing for Swiss chocolate and cheese!
In Switzerland, two mega-companies vie for the support and loyalty of every Swiss household: Coop and Migros. Established as the Union Suisse des Sociétés de Consommation (USC) in 1890, Coop has an undeniably long history in the land of the square red flag. However, I believe that Migros has an interesting and somewhat unusual story that is worth telling. In fact, I often share The Story of Migros on my tours with Free Walk Zurich. Today, I want to share it with you!
Almost a century ago, Zürich resident Gottlieb Duttweiler created a company that has had a far-reaching impact on the landscape of Swiss business and society: MIGROS. Duttweiler was passionate about giving all Swiss citizens equal access to opportunities to live a healthy, well-educated life. His first idea was to sell goods at cheaper prices and deliver those goods to the people.
So, out rolled the Migros vans in 1925, which carried basic supplies – such as coffee, rice, sugar, noodles, and soap – all throughout the villages surrounding Zurich. In addition to delivering necessities to more remote locations, Duttweiler realized that he could cut costs for consumers by eliminating the middleman from the supply chain. Migros prices dropped well below competitors – as much as 40%! When producers decided to boycott Migros in protest, Duttweiler launched his company into a journey of manufacturing its own brand of products. Nowadays, M-Industry, the industrial group of Migros, makes over 20,000 different products! Continue reading More than a Grocer: The Story of Migros
Switzerland – neutral and peaceful. How come the Swiss are responsible for protecting the most important figure of the Catholic Church? And who would have thought that in fact, the Swiss people used to be among the most aggressive and war-going people in Europe? The fact that we guard the Vatican City has nothing to do with our neutrality, on the contrary…
When Roman Emperor Julius Caesar invaded the Swiss territories, he described them in his books “de bello gallico” as “the bravest among all Gaul tribes” and “the only to fight the Germanics”. And that’s basically what we did for centuries: In the middle ages, many wars were fought by the Swiss not only between themselves, but also against German and Austrian noble houses. Thanks to some crushing victories, the Swiss soldiers gained a reputation as strong and skilled warriors – the ones you would want in your own army. From the 15th up to the 19th century, the Swiss decided to make a good use of their reputation: they became mercenaries.
One reason for their success was their fierce fighting tactics: A wall of long spears and pikes keeps the enemy away until they are able to create a small gap in their line. That’s when soldiers with halberdiers push through that gap and break the enemy line . This technique, roughly translated as “force-pile” (“Gewalthaufen” in German) made them so successful, it became popular for rulers all over Europe to have Swiss mercenaries in their armies. Continue reading The Swiss Guards
The most typical and also very delicious Zürich speciality is Zürigschnätzlets with Röschti. You can try it in various restaurants in Zürich. For example, in Zunfthaus zur Waag, a traditional trade guild house, or Zeughauskeller, the old armoury which was turned into a restaurant in a very authentic and nice setting, and also at more affordable places like the Restaurant zum Vorbahnhof or the Reinfelder Bierhalle which are traditionally restaurants for the working class.
Zürigschnätzlets itself is the very typical local dish in Zürich made out of veal meat with a cream sauce. Traditionally, Zürigschnätzlets also contains kidney. In some very classical restaurants like the Zunfthaus zur Waag you can still eat Zürigschnätzlets with or without kidney. It is cooked with butter, first in the oven and after in a pan. The typical side dish is Röschti.