When you think of Switzerland, several things may come to mind. There’s chocolate, cheese, watches and of course, our famous banks. But what about wine?
Though not as famous as our neighbors in France, Italy and Germany, we Swiss have been producing wine for centuries. In honor of this year’s harvest coming to an end, here’s a closer look at this hidden winemaking gem of Europe.
The main reason you’ve probably heard little to nothing about Swiss wine is because less than two percent makes it outside of Switzerland. The locals prefer to buy local, and there simply is not that much of it. Less than 0.4 percent of the country’s total surface area is planted with vines; around 15,000 hectares produce less than 100 million liters of wine per year. A strong Swiss currency is also a factor, as production costs are higher and foreign markets can feel it.
So for the most part, Swiss wine remains an exclusive product and one of the country’s best kept secrets. Here’s the scoop:
Swiss Grape Varieties
Though there are more than 200 varieties grown throughout the country, Switzerland focuses on four main grapes: Pinot Noir, Chasselas, Gamay and Merlot. Together, they represent 72 percent of all production.
Chasselas, more commonly known as Fendant to the locals, is an indigenous variety that originated along the shores of Lake Geneva. Chasselas can produce intricate, rich wines with good acidity that pair heavenly with a Swiss fondue. Other native varieties include Gamaret, Garanoir, Arvine and Amigne, to name a few. So if you love trying new and exotic grapes, a trip to Switzerland is a must!
Switzerland’s Wine Growing Regions
The largest wine growing region is Valais, responsible for 33 percent of total production. The Vaud region, however, is Switzerland’s most famous, home to the gorgeous vineyard terraces of Lavaux on Lake Geneva. This place is so special that UNESCO has named it a World Heritage Site.
Lavaux’s splendid slopes are so steep that all vineyards must be hand-picked, making harvest season a magical time. People come from all over to participate, working for free lodging and food. All you have to do is get in touch with a vineyard and be willing to work hard. If you’re able, an unforgettable experience awaits.
Other regions are German-speaking Switzerland, Geneva, Ticino and the Three Lakes region, which includes Neuchâtel, Morat and Biel/Bienne.
Wine Tourism in Switzerland
Again, it’s definitely not the first place you think of when it comes to wine countries, but Switzerland offers some unique wine experiences that we highly recommend. Of course we’re partial, but others such as Canadian wine citric Chuck Byers will back us up.
Throughout late May and early June, Switzerland’s wineries welcome guests to their Open Cellar Days, or “Caves Ouvertes.” Think panoramic views of nature’s finest, great food and fantastic wines. The idea is you buy a glass and tour a canton’s (region’s) wineries for a taste of Switzerland. The specific dates depend upon each region, but it’s definitely something to consider for a one-of-a-kind summer vacation.
And then at the end of each season, the harvest festivals begin, kicking into full gear throughout late September and October. It’s a very special time of the year when the hills burst with color and we gather to celebrate the fruits of our labor. Check out this list for upcoming events.
zzysh® Swiss Innovation and Wine
Switzerland has a rich wine culture and a knack for innovation. Though we may drink less per capita than our neighbors, it is because we’re focused on quality over quantity. Looking to savor each and every glass, our founder Manfred Jüni set out to develop a device that would not only preserve wine for weeks on end, but also be accessible to any wine lover looking to do the same: SAVOR WINE.
Our zzysh® Wine Preserver is the perfect way to make an exclusive bottle of Swiss wine last. So come visit, take a few bottles home and enjoy them whenever and however you’d like.
Cheers to that!