110 | squaremeal.co.uk There's more to Switzerland than watches, cuckoo clocks and chocolate…
Discover world-class wines with a unique alpine character
make time for
witzerland has a secret. If you've
travelled to Zurich on business or
hit the ski slopes of Verbier, you've
probably already discovered it:
unique, food-friendly wines from
Swiss vineyards. Now, thanks to
increasing availability in the UK, it's time for
Swiss wines to step into the spotlight and
gain the wider recognition they deserve.
In terms of area under vine, Switzerland
isn't big: its total vineyards equal about
one-eighth of the vineyards in Bordeaux.
But Swiss winemakers have a few aces up
their sleeve: native grapes, lakes, rivers and
last, but by no means least, the Alps.
'I think our USP is the Alps,' says Gilles
Besse, winemaker and president of the
national association Swiss Wine. The alpine
climate combined with mineral soils - think
granite on mountain slopes, schist in river
valleys and limestone around the lakes -
create a series of unique terroirs perfect
for quality grape cultivation.
With 95% of vineyards located in the alpine
mountain ring, it's fair to say that Swiss wines
share a distinctive alpine character. Try a few
SWISS WINE AT A GLANCE
6 REGIONS: Valais, Vaud, Geneva, Three Lakes,
Ticino, Eastern Switzerland
4 MAIN GRAPES: Pinot Noir, Gamay, Merlot (red);
15,000 hectares of vineyard
of our recommendations (see box) and you'll
taste this: alpine wines from Switzerland have
a clean minerality and sometimes astonishing
level of fruit purity. You can almost breathe in
the clear alpine air with each sip.
Beyond this alpine character there's huge
variety, with vineyards located on both the
north and south sides of the Alps, at varying
altitudes. Six wine regions are spread across
the French, Italian and German areas of
Switzerland: Valais, Vaud, Geneva, Three
Lakes, Ticino and Eastern Switzerland.
Take a tour...
Valais, in the south-west of Switzerland,
accounts for a third of Swiss wine production,
with vineyards that run for more than 100km
along the Rhône Valley. Vaud lies to the
west, around Lake Geneva, and includes the
scenic sub-region of Lavaux, a Unesco World
Heritage site with steeply terraced vineyards
clinging to the slopes above the lake. At the
southern tip of the lake is the smaller wine
region of Geneva, in uenced by the Jura
mountains as well as Lake Geneva.
North of Vaud is the scenic Three Lakes
region. The lakes in question are Murten,
Biel and the largest, Neuchâtel. Together,
these four French-Swiss areas produce the
lion's share (70%) of Swiss wines.
Eastern Switzerland is a large wine area
that covers all the German-speaking parts of
the country. The Rhine river, which originates
in Switzerland, is an in uence here, as are
the neighbouring moutains and lakes. Finally,
Italian-speaking Ticino, in the south-east,
enjoys a more Mediterranean climate, which
distinguishes it from the other regions.
Four grape varieties take credit for 72% of
Swiss wine production: Pinot Noir, Gamay,
Merlot (reds) and Chasselas (white). Wine
lovers will be familiar with the red grapes,
though that alpine character gives Swiss
expressions a unique charm.