Contrary to popular belief, Switzerland isn’t all about the chocolate, nor all about the skiing and hiking in their alps. Neither is it solely there to produce American “Swiss Cheese”. No with its 15,000 hectares of vineyards (sounds a lot, but the Bordeaux region in France has 120,000 hectares) and its 2000 year history of making wine (vines have been found to have be cultivated there since pre-Roman times, Switzerland has built up a reputation, quietly I hasten to add because the Swiss are renowned for being understated diplomats, as acclaimed wine makers. Although you will struggle to hear much about it outside of the Swiss borders because the majority of Swiss grown wine is consumed in Switzerland – the average person swills 31litres per year of the stuff. So I have compiled 5 things to know about Swiss wine, should you ever get the opportunity to indulge:
- Swiss wine production falls into 6 regions: Swiss-German part of Switzerland, Geneva, Vaud, Neuchâtel, The three Lakes area, Valais and Ticino. The Swiss-German part of the country mainly produces white wines, but also some great Pinot Noir.
- Swiss wine must be bottled to show its geographic region. Geneva is known for the Gamaret and Garanoir red blend, Vaud is known for the Lavaux Terroir, Valais is known for Petite Arvine and Shiraz. Valais produces almost a third of all Swiss wine.
- Two main grape varieties are Pinot Noir (Graubunder) and Chasselas (Gutedel). They account for respectively 30% and 27% of the national production and there are only around 4,000 wine producing professionals across Switzerland, mostly small family operations. White grapes varieties are grown on 42% of the country’s vineyard surface, and red grape varieties on 58%.
- Only 2% of Swiss wine is exported (and that is just to Germany), the other 98% remains in Switzerland to be drunk in house!
- In Valais and more specifically in the Val d’Anniviers (Grimentz – 1200 meters high) a cherry styled wine called “Vins des glaciers” is produced. It is made according to the “transvasage” method. A method consisting in adding the most recent wine every year in the barrel, and taking out the same quantity to be bottled. Thus the wine remains the same years after years and you will get some drops of 100 year old wine in your glass!
How to toast in Swiss French, German and Italian? “Proscht, Santé and Salute!”