While Neuchâtel wines originate from the north-western shores of the eponymous lake, those of Fribourg are made to the east of Lac de Neuchâtel, from around Broye in the south and Vully in the north. Vully’s vineyards stretch to between the lakes of Neuchâtel and Morat. The ground here is clay, sand, and calciferous sandstone. The climate is clearly moderated by the lake. The Chasselas grape holds sway here too but there are a number of interesting specialities such as the wines of Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling x Sylvaner (Müller-Thurgau), and Freisammer, which is a cross between Sylvaner and Pinot Gris. There is also an excellent Swiss wines like Oeil-de-Perdrix and superb Pinot Noir.
Geneva is the third largest wine-producing canton of Switzerland after Valais and Vaud. The landscape around Geneva is much more gentle and less hilly than the other two main wine regions. The vineyards can therefore be larger and mechanisation is possible. This has no effect on quality but certainly on the price of the wine. The growers in the Geneva region have also been busy rationalising the processes and searching for the most suitable grape varieties for quality Swiss wines. The area is fairly flat with just the odd undulation but it is encircled by mountains which protect the vineyards against too much precipitation. The proximity of Lake Geneva (Lac Léman) also protects the vineyards against night frost during the growing and blossoming periods. Here too the underlying geology is fairly diverse.
The Swiss wines made from Paien or Heida, as it is also known (meaning heaths), are quite unusual. Grapes grow on this very ancient native variety at altitudes of more than 1,000 metres (3,280 feet). In the Jura and Savoie in Prance it is known as Savagnin, Traminer in Alsace and certain German vineyards, and Tramini in Italy. This Swiss wine is fresh and quite dry with recognisable fresh nose of green apples. Drinking temperature is 8- 10C (46.4-50°F).
The rare Rèze grape is still used piecemeal in Anniviers to make wine. This Yin des Glaciers ('glacier' wine) is remarkably tart and green if drunk young. Allow it to age though and it develops a quite unusual but exciting nose. Drinking temperature for Rèze Swiss wine is 6- 9°C (42 .8-48.2°F) .
The Swiss wine region of Neuchâtel is situated on the north-west shore of the Lac de Neuchâtel and is separated from France by the Jura. The climate is fairly mild, sunny, and dry. The presence of the lake keeps winters mild but autumns can be misty which can be harmful for the grape harvest. The underlying ground here at the foot of the Jura mountains is mainly chalk rock with other rock outcrops, loam, and loess.
Eastern Switzerland is the name given by the German speaking Swiss but in fact the region is in the north east. The region covers more than a third of the entire country, east of a line drawn through Thun, Berne, Solothurn, Basle (Basel), and north of a line through Thun and Chur. The German speaking wine region consists of sixteen cantons and half of the French language canton of Berne that was dealt with under Suisse Romande, which in wine terms belongs to Ostschweiz. This is the tiny area around Lac de Thoune (Thunersee).
The greatest risk for Swiss wine growers in Ostschweiz is prolonged winter frost or deadly night frosts in spring during blossoming. Over the centuries the creative Swiss have come up with all manner of ways of protecting their vines against the cold. In addition to the widely used spraying and heating methods, the local growers have developed their own method. The vines are covered with straw or even with what resembles an eiderdown. The soil in Ostschweiz varies from west to east. In the western part, close to the Jura mountains, chalk is more prevalent; in the centre it is mainly calciferous sandstone, while in the east glacial scree and shale dominate. Because autumns are quite cold in Ostschweiz, only early ripening varieties of grapes thrive.
The Francophone wine regions are situated in the south-east of the country, and this is where most of the country’s wines are grown and made. Although Berne, Fribourg, Neuchatel, and Vaud play a role that certainly is not to be underestimated, it is principally Valais that is responsible for the best quality and greatest volume. Suisse Romande is virtually synonymous with white Swiss wine from the Chasselas grape which fails to achieve such quality and diversity of taste and styles anywhere else in the world.
It is not correct to speak of just Ticino as part of Italian speaking Switzerland for parts of Grisons Mesolcina and Poschiavo are also Italian speaking. Grisonso is therefore also included here.
These two southern areas of Grisons, Mesolcina (also known as Misox) and Poschiavo, solely produce red wine from Merlot and several hybrid blue grape Wine regions.
Switzerland is unbelievably beautiful with breathtaking mountains, deep valleys, lakes, picturesque towns and villages, and so much besides. However if anyone starts to discuss Swiss wine then conversation becomes animated. The opponents consider Swiss wines to be ridiculously expensive and of very modest quality. They declare that no good wine can be made from such poor grapes as Chasselas. The Swiss wine enthusiast on the other hand maintains that the authenticity of the Swiss terroir and very successful combination of soil, siting, and grape makes Swiss wine special. Furthermore, they add the Swiss do not just make white wines and their prices are a reflection of the difficult conditions under which the grapes are cultivated. Those who taste the wines objectively will find them exciting and of great class.
Vaud is one of the most attractive vineyard landscapes in Switzerland. It combines the ruggedness of Valais with the more gentle landscape of Geneva and Neuchâtel. There are superb views of the mountains, lakes, marvellous wine domains, and castles. Vaud is also a paradise for both lovers of nature and gastronomy.
There are two parts to the area: to the south it extends along the northern shore of Lake Geneva or Lac Léman and to the north along the southern part of Lac de Neuchâtel. These two areas are subdivided into six districts of Chablais (Aigle), Lavaux (between Montreux and Lausanne), and La Côte (between Lausanne and Nyon) by Lake Geneva and Côtes de l’Orbe, Bonvillars, and Vully around Lac de Neuchâtel. Most of the Swiss vineyards enjoy a microclimate influenced by the lakes.
This Swiss wine area comprises five places of origin: Bex, Ollon, Aigle, Yvome, and Villeneuve. The Chasselas white Swiss wine are fresh and lively while remaining elegant and rich. They can be recognised by the relatively high mineral content (magnesium in Aigle and Villeneuve, other minerals in Ollon, lots of flint in Bex, and gypsum in Ollon and Bex). This Swiss wine also reflects their terroir in the bouquet. If you take the wine route you will be confronted with a tremendous assortment of different aromatic nuances.
While the previous two white Swiss wines need to be drunk within three or at most four years after they are made, the wines of the Arvine and Petite Arvine grapes aged well. These are Swiss wines with a strong personality that are seductive, possessing a fruity bouquet, and are often high in alcohol (13% or more) and sometimes sugar residues. These unusual grapes thrive on very steep rocky ground.
The yield is quite low but the price of these gems is not untoward. Arvine and Petite Arvine Sèche (dry) has a characteristic salty taste and nose of citrus fruit. Arvine and Petite Arvine Flétri (partially dried grapes) is sweet and superb. Drinking temperature for this Arvine Swiss wine is 8-10°C (46.4-50°F) for the dry wines and 6-9°C (42.8°-8.2°F) for the sweet ones.