A PRIMER ON SWISS WINE
Written by Claire Williams
Swiss wines have quietly gained a reputation as an insider's gem within the global wine community. Despite Switzerland producing more than 26 million gallons annually, only two percent of that leaves the country. Within Switzerland's six distinctive wine-growing regions is an astonishing array of unique terroirs and an impressive roster of over 250 grape varieties under cultivation. This captivating tapestry comes to life when strolling through the picturesque vineyards or indulging in a wine tasting within the cozy confines of a local winegrower's cellar.
Wine with Passion: Malans & Grisons
The area around Bad Ragaz in Malans has been making wine for over a millennia. The historic center of Bündner Herrschaft is the Bothmar Castle, and the surrounding lush green vineyards make it one of Switzerland's most beautiful wine regions. Forty-five varieties of grapes grow in the Herrschaft, which is the warmest wine-growing region in German-speaking Switzerland. While more than 50 different wines are produced here, seventy-eight percent of production is Blauburgunder, a German synonym for Pinot Noir. The region's vineyard-hiking trail offers access to many vineyards and wine cellars, regionally called Torkel, meaning "wine-press," where visitors can learn about the vintners, the climate, and the warm and dry, gusty Föhn winds responsible for producing vintages that consistently favorable values on the German Öchsle scale, which measures the density of grape must (the freshly crushed fruit juice that contains the skins, seeds, and stems of the grapes), and indicates the sugar content and grape ripeness used in wine production.
House of Wine: Rhine Valley, St. Gallen
Notable for its award-winning architecture and distinctive roofline, the Haus des Weins, (house of wine) opened in October 2018 in the center of Berneck, a winemaking village approximately 30 minutes by car from the city of St. Gallen. At present, 20 winemakers from the Rhine Valley, Sarganserland/Walensee, and Lake Zurich regions utilize the house to present approximately 100 wines for tasting and purchase alongside other regional products and handicrafts. (hausdesweins-sg.ch)
TukTuk and Wine: Vineyards in Geneva
Welo allows you to experience Geneva's vineyards and culture with an electric TukTuk journey. En route, passionate local vintners treat you to their finest wines while sharing the stories and insights behind their craft. (www.welo.swiss)
Bike & Wine: Mendrisiotto, Ticino
With cycling paths that wind through vineyards and villages, a favorable climate and outstanding wines, the Mendrisiotto, the region of Ticino with the most vineyards, is a paradise for active wine enthusiasts. Available April through October, the 3.5-hour tour begins at the Fumagalli Winery and travels through what is frequently referred to as the "Tuscany of Switzerland," stopping at several vineyards for tastings. (mendrisiottoterroir.ch/t-en)
Behind Closed Doors: Carnotzet of the Hôtel de Ville, Lausanne
Signing on to this tour opens doors usually closed to the public, the carnotzet (a word from the French regional dialect that designates a small hiding place where bottles of wine are stored) of the Hôtel de Ville, for a tasting of the wines of the Les Domaines de la Ville de Lausanne. To enhance your experience, conclude by visiting a secret location for a delicious wine tasting narrated by a passionate local connoisseur. (lausanne-tourisme.ch/en/offer/lausanne-and-its-wines)
Dynamic Wine Traditions: Lake Zürich
Visitors can indulge in Zürich's wines at vineyards, wine bars, and the Expovina wine fair, staged each fall on 12 boats moored at the pier at Bürkliplatz on Lake Zürich. However, one of the most surprising examples of Zurich's wine aspiration is the Wellentänzer, or "wave dancer" wine. This unique wine, produced by hand harvested Johanniter grapes, undergoes a unique aging process where half the wine matures conventionally, and the other spends 70 days floating in a specially constructed sealed buoy that drifts in the lake, creating a twin comparison that serves as a reference when subsequently comparing the two wines. This innovative method harnesses the lake's natural energy, contributing to the wine's distinct character and symbolizing Zürich's creative winemaking approach. In Zürich, you can taste Wellentänzer at Restaurant Igniv (igniv.com/english) and Restaurant Blaue Ente (en.muehle-tiefenbrunnen.ch/blaue-ente).
Swiss Wines in the Big Apple: Lavaux Wine Bar
If a trip to Switzerland isn't in the offering, but NYC is, head to the Lavaux Wine Bar, a rustic-chalet-inspired spot founded by a Swiss trio of two winemakers and a cheesemonger hailing from the Lavaux in the heart of Switzerland's French-speaking region. They are passionate about and devoted to sharing their love of Switzerland's culinary and wine traditions with New Yorkers! (thelavauxwinebar.com)