Discovering the wine region of Switzerland
Switzerland may not be the most famous of wine-producing nations, but this small mountainous country in Western Europe has been producing wine for over two thousand years. The lack of awareness of Swiss wine is not due to a lack of quality or quantity, but to the fact that it is produced primarily for (and enjoyed by) the Swiss themselves.
But things are slowly changing; the world beyond the Alps is now discovering the high quality of much of Switzerland's Grape/pinot">Pinot noir and white wines made from the country's flagship grape, Chasselas. High-end Vineyards can be found in almost every corner of the country, but the vast majority are in the Alpine Valais and around Lake Geneva, in La Côte and Vaud/lavaux">Lavaux.
Entirely landlocked, Switzerland is wedged between Germany, Italy, Austria and France - to the North, South, east and west respectively. Its culture is Clearly influenced by each of these neighbours, evident in its languages (German, French and Italian are all official national languages here) but also in its wines. The Germanic influence on wine is seen in a preference for Varietal winemaking and crisp, refreshing wine styles, and is most evident in the German-speaking north between Zurich and the Rhine. The French influence is felt throughout the country, but especially in the French-speaking southwest, Geneva, Vaud and Valais.
The country's favourite grape varieties - Chasselas, Pinot Noir, Gamay and Merlot - are all of French origin.
Switzerland's main wine-growing regions are on the edges of the country, with the centre largely devoid of vineyards. Most are located in the southwest, around the northern shores of Lake Geneva (Geneva and Vaud) and along the upper reaches of the Rhone in the Valais. There are also important vineyard areas in the west (Neuchâtel), south (Ticino), east (Graubünden) and scattered around Zurich in the north (Aargau, Schaffhausen and the Zurich Weinland).