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Regions

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

Description to Switzerland

The Romans planted vines in the Basel and Windisch area around the turn of the century and founded 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, there is evidence of vineyards in the Rhine valley in Chur and on Lake Constance. 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 of Schwyz, Uri and Unterwalden in 1291 until the 18th century, wine production increased steadily. Around the year 1850, the vineyards covered around 35,000 hectares, more than twice as much as today. In the 19th century, viticulture suffered a decline due to foreign competition, as well as phylloxera and mildew, which reached Switzerland as one of the last European countries. After the Second World War, there was an upswing again

Switzerland is the most mountainous country in Europe (after Albania) 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, many vineyards are located on glacial moraines with mostly terraced steep slopes of up to 70%. The Riebe vineyard near the municipality of Visperterminen at 1,100 metres above sea level is the highest vineyard in Central Europe. Particularly on the southern side of the Alps, with the largest wine-growing region, Valais, there are many hours of sunshine but relatively little precipitation. Only Ticino, which lies to the south, has a lot of precipitation. Linguistically, Switzerland is divided into the three wine-growing regions of western Switzerland (French Switzerland with three-quarters of the vineyard area), eastern Switzerland (German Switzerland - the "land of red country wines" and the smallest area) and Ticino in the south (Italian Switzerland). For this reason, German, Italian and French influences are reflected in the diverse wine culture.

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

Grape variety Synonyms or name in Switzerland Colour Hectare
Pinot Noir Pinot noir, Clevner, Chlävner red 4.402
Chasselas Dorin, Fendant, Chasselas, 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
Sauvignon Blanc - white 134
Rouge du Pays Cornalin du Valais red 116
Diolinoir - red 112
Pinot Blanc - white 105
Traminer
Gewürztraminer
Heida, Païen, Savagnin Blanc
Heather Red
white 83
49
Cabernet Sauvignon - red 63
Cabernet Franc - red 54
Muscat Blanc / Muscat 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 white - red 24
Räuschling Large Räuschling, Züri(ch)rebe white 23
Aligoté - white 23
Cabernet Dorsa - red 22
Dornfelder - red 21
Cabernet Jura - red 19
Ancellotta - red 19
Kerner - white 19
Zweigelt - red 15
Galotta - red 13
Bondola Bondola Nera, Brieger 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
Scheurebe - white 5
Chambourcin - red 3
Completer Large Lafnetscha, Malanser grapevine, Zürireb grapevine white 3
Marselan - red 2
Millot-Foch - red 2
VB 32-7 Leaf 32-7 white 2
Baco Noir - red 1
Landal Noir - red 1
Birstal Muscat Muscat de la Birse, VB 86-6 white ?
Cabaret Noir VB 91-26-4 red ?
Cabernet Blanc - white ?
Cabernet Colonjes - red ?
Cabertin - red ?
Foundling (mut. Müller-Thurgau) - white ?
Lafnetscha Blanchier, Gros Gouais white ?
Mara - red ?
Pinotin - red ?
RAC 3209 - red ?
Réselle - white ?
Rèze Blanc de Maurienne white ?
Riesel - white ?
Rouge de Fully Durize red ?


In 2012, the area under vines covered 15,000 hectares, from which 1.004 million hectolitres of wine were produced (see worldwide statistics on this 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 almost exclusively consumed in the country and even twice as much has to be imported. Mostly, the wines are named after the commune (many have AOC status) where they are produced. There are 26 political cantons, 17 of which have wine production. Many 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 cross-cantonal Three Lakes Region. The wine cantons or wine regions:

CANTON
WINE REGION (WR)
CANTON/WINE REGION
french/italian
GEOGRAPHIC
REGION
HA
Aargau Argovie, Argovia German-speaking Switzerland 395
Basle Country Bâle-Campagne, Basilea Campagna German-speaking Switzerland 80
Berne Berne, Berna German-speaking Switzerland 250
German-speaking Switzerland (WR) Suisse alémanique, Svizzera tedesca German-speaking Switzerland 2.600
Three-Lakes Region (WR) Pays des Trois-Lacs Western Switzerland 945
Fribourg Fribourg, Friburgo Western Switzerland 120
Geneva (WR) Genève, Ginevra Western Switzerland 1.340
Graubünden Grisons, Grigioni German-speaking Switzerland 384
Jura Jura, 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-speaking 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. Previously, it was largely up to the winemaker to decide what information to include on the label. As a rule, this was the commune and/or grape varieties or a branded wine designation. Swiss wine legislation provides for three categories of wine

Category I refers to "quality wines with a controlled designation of origin", which are labelled with the name of a canton or a geographical area of a canton. In this context, the cantons may, under certain conditions, extend individual areas beyond the cantonal borders. The individual cantons lay down provisions on the area boundaries, authorised grape varieties, minimum must content per grape variety, maximum yield per grape variety, cultivation methods, vinification methods, as well as a system of sensory and analytical testing as a prerequisite for marketing.

The must weights must reach at least 15.2 (French-speaking Switzerland) and 15.8 °Brix (German-speaking Switzerland, Italian-speaking Switzerland) for white wine varieties and at least 17 °Brix for red wine varieties. Yields may not exceed 1.4 kg/m² (1.2 ital. Switzerland) for white wine varieties and 1.2 kg/m² (1.0 ital. Switzerland) for red wine varieties. Exclusively for category I wines, the following appellations are permitted: 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 Pressure (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 secondary importance in Switzerland. Many cantons do not yet have their own regulations; instead, the above general federal ordinance suffices 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 growths.

Category II comprises country wines designated with the name of the country or part of the country with a larger extension than that of a canton. Must weights must reach at least 14.4 °Brix for white wine varieties and at least 15.2 °Brix for red wine varieties. Yields may not exceed 1.8 kg/m² for white wine varieties and 1.6 kg/m² for red wine varieties.

Category III as the lowest quality level are simple wines (table wines) which originate 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.

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