Over 200 types of vine are grown in Switzerland and of these no fewer than 40 are ancient, indigenous rarities, which are found barely anywhere else in the world. Anyone who wishes to enjoy these fine wines cannot avoid visiting Switzerland as only 1 – 2% of Swiss wines are exported. Small vineyards and steep hillside locations complicate and limit production. Therefore the focus is on quality rather than quantity – a fact born out by a variety of awards.
German-speaking SwitzerlandThe wines of German-speaking Switzerland on a small scale distinguish themselves in the same way as Swiss wines do in general: the prevailing soil types (in the Jura Arch chalky, in the Mittelland predominantly rich in molasses and slate, in the Bündner Herrschaft scree) produce wines of exceptional variety. Pinot Noir (= Blauburgunder) and Riesling-Silvaner (also known as Müller-Thurgau) are the main – but by no means the only – varieties produced in German-speaking Switzerland. Räuschling (Zurich), Completer (Grisons), both of which are autochtonous specialities, as well as internationally known varieties such as Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon blanc and a good ten more varieties are vinified for wine lovers which is why connoisseurs associate the following expression with German-speaking Switzerland: great things come in small packages.
ValaisThe sun almost turns the Valais into a Mediterranean country. The vineyards run continuously along south-facing hillsides from the wine-growing villages of Fully and Chamoson in the Lower Valais via Conthey and Sion in the Central Valais all the way to Salgesch in the Upper Valais. The smaller vineyards on the left-hand shores are distributed between Lake Geneva, Martigny, Riddes and Siders. In the Upper Valais several vineyards extend deep into the side valleys. It therefore doesn’t come as a surprise that the highest vineyard in Europe is tended in the Upper Valais at an altitude of 1,150 metres above sea level in a place called Visperterminen. The Valais is the biggest wine-growing canton with several hundred wine-growers there producing just over two fifths of Swiss wine. The wines in the Valais are made from approximately 50 types of grapes, some of which, such as Petite Arvine, Amigne, Humagne blanc and Humagne rouge and Cornalin, are very ancient and barely known outside the area. The most common varieties however are Chasselas (pressed into Fendant) and Pinot noir. Syrah vines, which thrive wonderfully on the Rhone slopes gain importance every year. This is where the biggest variety of top Swiss wines is pressed.
© Fabrice Wagner