Our tour of the Swiss wine regions starts in Italian speaking Ticino, then to Francophone Suisse Romande and finally to German speaking Ostschweiz.
TICINO SWISS REGION
Ticino is ranked fourth in scale of the wine-producing cantons of Switzerland. Prior to the invasion of phylloxera Ticino had some 7,000 hectares of vineyards but only about 1,200 hectares remain. Ticino is divided into the southern Sottoceneri and northern Sopraceneri. The border between the two areas is formed by the Monte Ceneri. The underlying ground of Sottoceneri consists mainly of a mixture of chalk, minerals, clay, and sand.
The vineyards lie on both sides of Lake Lugano, between Chiasso and Mendrisio in the south and Lugano and Rivera in the north. Sopraceneri has a different geology which is more typical of the Alps, but with less chalk and more granite and sand. The great lakes of Lago Lugano, Lago Maggiore, and to a lesser extent Lago di Como, play an important role. The hot Mediterranean climate is somewhat tempered by them.
MERLOT DEL TICINO SWISS WINE
One of the wines of Ticino of course is the Merlot del Ticino Denominazione di Origine. Merlot grapes were planted in Ticino following destruction of the vineyards by phylloxera. The results are surprising.
Not all Merlot del Ticino wines have the same quality seductive, light, lithe, and with little acidity or tannin. The colour is generally granite red and the nose is reminiscent of wild black cherry with hints too of other red fruit. Only the better wines are cask aged in wood, possessing strong tannin that becomes velvet smooth with age. These Swiss wines are sturdier and more powerful. The best wines carry the strongly coveted VITI quality mark with its indication Controlo Ufficiale di Qualita (official quality control). Drinking temperature for this Swiss wine is 12-14°C (53.6-57.2°F).
The better, more sturdy Merlot that is cask aged in wood is best served with roast meat. Drinking temperature for this Swiss wine is 14-17°C (57.2-62.6°F).
There is also a white wine and a superb light rosé wine, both made from Merlot. Drinking temperature is 8-10°C (46.4-50°F) for the Merlot Bianco and Merlot Rosato.
NOSTRANO SWISS WINE
Nostrano is certainly the oldest and most traditional wine of Ticino. It is made from the native Bondola, perhaps supplemented with Freisa, Bonarda, or Malbec.
This Swiss wine is somewhat rustic yet very enjoyable. Drinking temperature for this Swiss wine is 14°C (57.2°F). There is also a white Nostrano Bianco. Drinking temperature for this Swiss wine is 8-10°C (46.4-50°F).
BONDOLA SWISS WINE
Just like Nostrano this typical Ticino red wine is wholly made from Bondola grapes. Drinking temperature for this Swiss wine is 14°C (57.2°F).
OTHER WINES OF TICINO SWISS WINE
Occasionally you may come across a Ticino Spumante (drinking temperature 5-6°C/41-42.8°F), Ticino Pinot Nero (14°C/57.2°F), and various whites of Chasselas (8-10°C/46.4-50°F), Chardonnay (10-12°C/50-53.6°F), Sauvignon (8-10°C/46.4-50°F), Semillon (10-11°C/50-51.8°F), and Riesling x Sylvaner (10-11°C/50-51.8°F). There are also white wines made from blends of Chasselas, Sauvignon, and Semillon which are delicious with fish (8-10°C/46.4-50°F).