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.
Evidence shows vines have been cultivated in Switzerland since pre-Roman times. With a particularly Christian culture, wine was in high-demand for religious services and ensured wine was steadily produced here throughout the middle ages and into modern times.
GRAPES / REGIONS
There are 6 main wine producing regions across Switzerland:
2. Neuchatel/3 Lakes
3. Swiss German Region
Most of the activity occurs in the French-speaking parts of Switzerland, which includes Geneva, Neuchatel, Valais, and Vaud. Valais is the most productive canton accounting for approximately 40% of Swiss wine production.
Across these 6 regions, 200+ grape varietals are grown. The Swiss drink more red than white and Pinot Noir has become the grape of choice. The Swiss Pinots take on different characteristics depending on the region and vinification process. The most widely grown white grape, Chasselas, is commonly associated with the canton of Vaud (its likely origin). This is an extremely sensitive grape resulting in subtle taste differences. The top grown grapes in Switzerland are:
1. Pinot Noir (red)
2. Chasselas (white)
3. Gamay (red)
4. Merlot (red)
There are around 4,000 wine producing professionals across Switzerland, mostly small family operations.
All this talk of wine got you thirsty? Free Walk Zurich now offers private wine tasting tours, check out the Swiss Wine website for wine tourism events hosted throughout the year and keep an eye out on the Free Walk blog for more articles covering Swiss wine.
Sarah, Free Walk Zurich