Wines Produced in Switzerland
Switzerland is in a perfectly logical location for growing grapes and making fine wine, nestled between Germany, France, and Italy. Switzerland’s vineyards grace the country’s three faces — French-speaking, German-speaking, and Italian-speaking. But few wine lovers outside of Switzerland have much opportunity to taste Swiss wines because the production is tiny and because the wines are so popular within Switzerland itself.
About half of Switzerland’s wines are white; most are made from Chasselas — a grape cultivated with much less distinction in Germany, eastern France, and the Loire Valley. In Switzerland, Chasselas wines tend to be dry, fairly full-bodied, and unoaked, with mineral and earthy flavors.
Other white grapes include Pinot Gris, Sylvaner, Marsanne, Petit Arvine, and Amigne — the latter two indigenous to Switzerland. Merlot is an important red grape (especially in the Italian-speaking Ticino region), along with Pinot Noir and Gamay.
Switzerland’s major wine regions include:
Vaud, along Lake Geneva
Valais, to the east, along the Rhône River
Neuchâtel, in western Switzerland, north of the Vaud
Ticino, in the south, bordering Italy
Thurgau in the north, bordering Germany.
Because of Switzerland’s varied terrain (hills of varying altitudes, large lakes, sheltered valleys), numerous microclimates exist. Wine styles therefore vary, from relatively full-bodied reds and whites to delicate, crisp white wines.
When you do find a bottle of Swiss wine, you may be surprised to discover how costly it is — $20 to $40 in the United States, reflecting high production costs. (But quality is generally also high.)