You are using an old browser that may not function as expected. For a better, safer browsing experience, please upgrade your browser.

Log in Become a Member


Comprehensive description of all European growing areas, their grape varieties, traditions and legal rules with maps.

Description to Switzerland

Around the turn of the century, the Romans planted vines in the Basel and Windisch area and established viticulture. In the 6th century AD, monks from Burgundy founded the monastery of St. Maurice near Aigle in the canton of Vaud and cultivated vineyards. In the middle of the 8th century, vineyards in Chur's Rhine Valley and on Lake Constance are occupied. As elsewhere in Europe, viticulture was cultivated by the Cistercians in the Middle Ages. They founded the Hautcrèt Palézieux monastery and planted the first terraced vineyard on Lake Geneva in the canton of Vaud in 1142. The Dézaley area is still one of the best appellations in Switzerland today. From the beginning of the confederation of the three cantons Schwyz, Uri and Unterwalden in 1291 until the 18th century, wine production increased continuously. Around the year 1850, the area under vines was more than twice as large as it is today, with about 35,000 hectares. In the 19th century, viticulture suffered a decline due to foreign competition as well as phylloxera and powdery mildew, which reached Switzerland as one of the last European countries. After the Second World War, there was then an upswing again.

Switzerland is (after Albania) the most mountainous country in Europe and the Alps with their foothills also have a strong influence on viticulture. The vineyards are mainly located at the beginning of the three large river valleys Rhône in the west, Rhine in the north and Po in the south. In these valleys and along the many lakes, there are many vineyards on glacial moraines with mostly terraced steep slopes up to 70% inclination. The Riebe vineyard near the municipality of Visperterminen at 1,100 metres above sea level is the highest vineyard in Central Europe. Especially on the southern side of the Alps, with the largest area of winegrowing in Valais, there are many hours of sunshine but relatively little precipitation. Only the Ticino in the south is very rich in precipitation. Linguistically, Switzerland is divided into the three wine-growing regions of Western Switzerland (French-speaking Switzerland with three-quarters of the vineyard area), Eastern Switzerland (German-speaking Switzerland - the "land of red country wines" and the smallest area) and Ticino in the South (Italian-speaking Switzerland). For this reason, German, Italian and French influences are reflected in the diverse wine culture.

Slightly more than half of the total area is occupied by red wine varieties. The most common are Pinot Noir (Pinot Noir) and Gamay, only in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland (Ticino) Merlot clearly dominates with over 80%. Among the white wine varieties, Chasselas clearly dominates (here also called Dorin, Fendant and Perlan), followed by Müller-Thurgau (here Riesling x Sylvaner) - the name is a monument to the Swiss viticulture pioneer Dr. Hermann Müller-Thurgau (1850-1927). In Eastern Switzerland (German-speaking Switzerland), there is almost a monoculture, with the red wine variety Pinot Noir dominating here with about 70% of the area. The Americano, planted after the phylloxera catastrophe, accounts for about 15% and is used especially in Ticino for table grapes and grappa. The numerous old autochthonous grape varieties, which are mainly cultivated in the canton of Valais, are called old plants. The 2010 list of grape varieties (ex Kym Anderson):

Grape variety Synonyms or name in Switzerland Colour Hectare
Pinot noir Pinot Noir, Clevner, Chlävner red 4.402
Chasselas Dorin, Fendant, Gutedel, Perlan white 4.013
Gamay Gamay Noir red 1.521
Merlot - red 1.028
Müller-Thurgau Riesling x Sylvaner white 493
Gamaret - red 380
Chardonnay - white 321
Cornalin Cornalin d'Aoste, Humagne Rouge red 244
Silvaner Gros Rhin, Johannisberg, Sylvaner white 241
Pinot gris Malvoisie, Malvoisie du Valais white 216
Garanoir - red 203
Syrah - red 181
Arvine Petite Arvine white 154
Blanc sauvignon - white 134
Rouge du Pays Cornalin du Valais red 116
Diolinoir - red 112
Pinot blanc - white 105
Heida, Païen, Savagnin Blanc
white 83
Cabernet Sauvignon - red 63
Cabernet franc - red 54
Muscat Blanc / Muscat Plate Muscat du Valais white 49
Marsanne Ermitage Blanc, Marsanne Blanche white 48
Amigne Amique white 43
Regent - red 41
Viognier - white 31
Humagne Blanche Humagne Blanc white 30
Doral - white 27
Dark fields - red 24
Räuschling Big rustling, Züri(ch)rebe white 23
Aligoté - white 23
Cabernet dorsa - red 22
Dornfelder - red 21
Cabernet Jurassic - red 19
Ancellotta - red 19
Kerner - white 19
Zweigelt - red 15
Galotta - red 13
Bondola Bondola Nera, warrior red 13
Solaris - white 13
Maréchal Foch - red 13
Dakapo - red 13
Riesling Petit rhin white 12
Johanniter - white 11
Cot Côt, Malbec red 10
Carminoir - red 10
Charmont - white 10
Léon Millot Millot red 9
Seyval Blanc - white 8
Plant Robert = Gamay - red 6
Chenin Blanc - white 6
Sauvignon Gris - white 5
Scrubber - white 5
Chambourcin - red 3
Completer Great Lafnetscha, Malanserrebe, Zürirebe white 3
Marselan - red 2
Millot-Foch - red 2
VB 32-7 Leaflet 32-7 white 2
Baco noir - red 1
Landal noir - red 1
Birstaler nutmeg Muscat de la Birse, VB 86-6 white ?
Cabaret noir VB 91-26-4 red ?
Cabernet blanc - white ?
Cabernet Colonjes - red ?
Cabertin - red ?
Erraticblock (mut. Müller-Thurgau) - white ?
Lafnetscha Blanchier, Gros Gouais white ?
Mara - red ?
Pinot Noir - red ?
? RAC 3209 - red ?
Réselle - white ?
Rèze Blanc de Maurienne white ?
Trickle - white ?
Rouge de Fully Durize red ?

In 2012, the area under vines was 15,000 hectares, of which 1.004 million hectolitres of wine were produced (see a global statistic on this subject under Wine Production Volumes). Switzerland produces excellent wines in many varieties. The only reason why they are perhaps not so well known outside the country is that they are consumed almost exclusively within the country and even twice as much needs to be imported. Mostly, the wines are named after the community (many have AOC status) in which they are produced. There are 26 political cantons, in 17 of which there is viticulture. Many of them do not have their own wine regulations, so not every canton is a wine region in its own right. The six wine regions are the cantons of Geneva, Ticino, Vaud and Valais, as well as German-speaking Switzerland (with 17 cantons) and the Three Lakes Region, which transcends cantonal boundaries. The wine cantons or wine regions:

Aargau Argovie, Argovia German-speaking Switzerland 395
Baselland Bâle-Campagne, Basilea Campagna German-speaking Switzerland 80
Bern Berne, Berna German-speaking Switzerland 250
German-speaking Switzerland (WR) Suisse alémanique, Svizzera tedesca German-speaking Switzerland 2.600
Three-Lakes Land (WR) Pays des Trois-Lacs Western Switzerland 945
Freiburg Fribourg, Friburgo Western Switzerland 120
Geneva (WR) Geneva, Ginevra Western Switzerland 1.340
Grisons Grisons, Grigioni German-speaking Switzerland 384
Jura Law, Giura Western Switzerland 9,5
Lucerne Lucerne, Lucerna German-speaking Switzerland 40
Neuchâtel Neuchâtel, Neuchâtel Western Switzerland 605
Nidwalden Nidwald, Nidvaldo German-speaking Switzerland 0,2
Schaffhausen Schaffhouse, Sciaffusa German-speaking Switzerland 500
Schwyz Schwytz, Svitto German-speaking Switzerland 32
St. Gallen St Gall, San Gallo German-speaking Switzerland 220
Ticino (WR) Ticino, Ticino Italian Switzerland 1.028
Thurgau Thurgovie, Turgovia German-speaking Switzerland 274
Vaud (WR) Vaud, Vaud Western Switzerland 3.882
Valais (WR) Valais, Vallese Western Switzerland 5.236
Zurich Zurich, Zurigo German-speaking Switzerland 644

In 1990, the canton of Valais became the first Swiss wine-growing region to introduce a quality wine hierarchy. In the past, it was largely up to the winemaker to decide what information to include on the label. As a rule, these were communes and/or grape varieties or a brand name for a wine. Swiss wine legislation provides for three categories of wine:

Category I refers to "quality wines with a controlled designation of origin", which are designated by the name of a canton or a geographical area of a canton. Under certain conditions, the cantons may extend individual areas beyond the cantonal borders. The individual cantons lay down provisions on the territorial limits, authorised grape varieties, minimum must content per grape variety, maximum yield per grape variety, cultivation methods, wine-making methods and a system of sensory and analytical testing as a prerequisite for marketing.

The must weights must be at least 15.2 °Brix (French-speaking Switzerland) or 15.8 °Brix (German-speaking Switzerland, Italian-speaking Switzerland) for white wines and at least 17 °Brix for red wines. Yields must not exceed 1.4 kg/m² (1.2 Italian-speaking Switzerland) for white wine varieties and 1.2 kg/m² (1.0 Italian-speaking Switzerland) for red wine varieties. The following designations are permitted exclusively for Category I wines: Spätlese (Vendange tardive, Vendemmia tardiva), Auslese (Sélection, Selezione), Beerenauslese (Sélection de grains nobles), Trockenbeerenauslese, Eiswein (Vin de glace), Beerliwein, Flétri (Flétri sur souche), Oeil de Perdrix (rosé), straw wine (Passerillé, Sforzato), sweet wine (Pressé doux) - also for country wines, Village(s) and Vin des Glaciers (glacier wine).

Although almost 90% of all Swiss wines have or could have AOC status, the designation is currently of rather minor importance in Switzerland. Many cantons do not yet have their own regulations, but the above general federal ordinance is sufficient for them. In some cantons, such as Vaud and Valais, there is the even higher level Grand Cru, which is used for privileged sites. In the canton of Vaud there is the special Terravin award in gold and platinum for top plants.

Category II includes country wines that are designated by the name of the country or part of the country with a greater extent than that of a canton. The must weights must reach at least 14.4 °Brix for white wine varieties and at least 15.2 °Brix for red wine varieties. Yields must not exceed 1.8 kg/m² for white wine varieties and 1.6 kg/m² for red wine varieties.

Category III, the lowest quality category, is made up of simple wines(table wines) which come from grapes harvested in Switzerland and whose must weights reach at least 13.6 °Brix for white wine varieties and at least 14.4 °Brix for red wine varieties.

Classified producers: 4
Wines tasted: 111
In this section you will find
currently 143,997 Wines and 22,860 Producers, including 2,396 classified producers.
Rating system Their sources in Wine Guide Wine Samples