When thinking of obvious Swiss cultural products, any (or all) of the following might come to mind: An incredible variety of chocolate, idyllic snow covered mountains, groovy yodeling with Alphorn sounds, or creamy cheese which almost forces you to eat the plate with it!
But few are aware of another product of sublime quality and breathtakingly good taste... A product which almost every Swiss seems to hold dear: Swiss wine!
By law, every house in Switzerland needs to have a basement for protection during war. However, I discovered that almost all of my friends here have their cellars piled up to the ceiling with bottles of all kinds of wines!
Most of these wines tend to be Swiss. And during most get-togethers with friends, I would be offered Swiss wine “because you have to integrate.” For this reason, I decided to study this juicy drink a bit more, only to discover a hidden treasure of Switzerland!
Back in the day…
According to some historians, traces of the viniculture in Switzerland go all the way back to the Romans (although some traces were found leading further back because of the many Latin names).
It was the Christian church which kept the production of wine going, leading to the juice as we know it today. This long tradition is something the winegrowers hold dear. Their love and dedication is apparent in the amount of time they spend perfecting their wines' quality.
Although surrounded by some market leaders in viniculture such as France, Italy, Austria and Germany, Switzerland does not suffer from a “Calimero Complex” (named after the underdog cartoon chicken: “They're big and I'm small”).
In contrary, Swiss wine-growers do their utmost to serve their customers a great variety of wines, which is being enhanced by their own diverse culture. Therefore, the quality slowly but continually tends to increase to meet the high Swiss standards.
In my opinion, another important reason for why Swiss wines are excellent are the diverse and nutricious soils around here. For example, the Jura Mountains exhibit lots and lots of calcium carbonate...
Where to find Swiss wine?
Nowadays, there are three main vineyard areas in Switzerland: the German and Romansh parts in the East; the French speaking part in the West and the Italy infused Ticino part in the South. The most important cantons for wine production are Valais (5.136 ha), Vaud (3.851 ha) and Geneva (1.288 ha).
The most well-known Swiss white wines are:
- Chasselas (better known as Fendant from Valais, which features the highest located vineyards of Europe)
- Müller-Thurgau (or Riesling X Sylvaner from Thurgau, which covers 25% of the production of this area)
- Sylvaner (or Johannisberg from Valais; popular due to the dry climate)
The most popular red wines are:
- Pinot Noir (all regions, which covers around 75% of all red wines)
- Gamay (from Geneva and Vaud, of which Geneva is known as a dynamic wine area)
- Merlot (from Ticino, covering almost 90% of the vineyards)
Traditionally, the wines are young of age and thus are known as elegant and fresh.
Some impressive numbers on Swiss viniculture:
- Vineyards cover approximately 15'000 ha/58 sq mi of land
- On average, the production is around 1.1 mio hl/29 mio gal per year
- 51% is white wine
- 40 rare (Made in Switzerland) wines which can hardly be found anywhere else
- About 7.8 million Swiss are proud of it!
How to toast in Swiss German, French and Italian?
Are you getting thirsty but would first like to get some more information on this topic? Please visit the main source of this article at SwissWine.ch. There, you can find much more information on each region, why Swiss wine is so delicious or addresses of vineyards. All credits to their beautiful website and wide amount of information!
Also, find more information on Swiss-German wines at Weinbranche.ch (alliance of Swiss German wine growers).