Switzerland is home to some of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world, and the country is known worldwide for its precise craftsmanship and world-class ski resorts.
When it comes to quality Swiss craftsmanship, the attention to detail and consistency in wine production are exactly what one would expect from a country so well known for making high-quality products.
Many wine enthusiasts have never had the opportunity to try the wines of Switzerland, as very little is exported and distributed throughout the world.
The Top Wines of Switzerland
Valais is the most prominent of all wine regions in Switzerland, and it accounts for about one-third of all wine produced in the country.
The climate here is drier than in any other Swiss wine region, and there is a warm wind that blows through the valleys helping grapes mature faster.
This region is located on the Rhone River Valley and is located on the opposite side of the river as France. This is the most prestigious wine region in all of Switzerland, and the area is home to 12 different vineyards that have been awarded Grand Cru designations.
The hillsides of this valley are extremely steep, and the vineyards here are planted on some of the most drastic inclines anywhere in the world.
Wine grapes here are often planted on hillsides up to 40 degrees, making maintenance a laborious task that can only be done by humans.
Due to the inability to plant, maintain, and harvest wine grapes by machine on these steeper gradients, the labor and time involved in producing a bottle usually lead to a higher price tag. Swiss wine from the Valais region usually costs between $20 and $160 per bottle.
While Pinot Noir is one of the most popular wine grapes in the area, there are also a number of regional wine grapes that grow in Valais.
Lesser-known wine grapes like Chasselas, Petite Arvine, and Cornalin can all be found here, and the area is also famous for a rare red blend.
Marie-Therese Chappaz Grain Arvine de Fully is a dessert wine composed of the Petite Arvine grape. This sweet wine has proven to be a crowd pleaser among wine critics and enthusiasts alike, and a bottle usually costs somewhere around $75.
Adrian et Diego Mathier Cave Nouveau Salquenen Ambassadeur des Domaines Diego Mathier is a fantastic example of Pinot Noir from the Valais region, and it has drawn high praise from some of the most important wine critics in the industry today.
Valais Mundi Electus is one of the most highly renowned representations of the signature Valais rare red blend. Bottles of Mundi Electus are rarely found for under $130, and certain vintages can draw price tags up to $500.
Vaud is the second largest wine-producing region in Switzerland, and roughly a quarter of all Swiss wine is produced here.
The primary language spoken in Vaud is French, and many parts of French culture are apparent in the region, including a healthy passion for good wine.
The Chasselas grape dominates the region, accounting for nearly 60 percent of all plantings in Vaud. The wine produced is clean and crisp and is well known for balanced flavors that can range from floral to fruity.
Switzerland is the largest producer of Chasselas, and nearly 90 percent of all plantings worldwide are located in the country.
Pinot Noir and a rare red blend are also grown in the Vaud region, as well as the occasional Gamay or Chardonnay plantings.
While other grape varietals can thrive here, the region is most commonly associated with Chasselas. The region is home to two Grand Cru areas that are considered to be the top producers of Chasselas wine in the entire world.
While the term “Grand Cru” signifies a ranking for an individual winemaker in France, in Switzerland the term is used to label an entire winemaking area of prominence.
Dézaley Grand Cru Medinette is one of the most famous examples of Grand Cru wine from the Vaud region. The vineyard is situated on a stunning plot of land that features steep hillsides and enjoys beautiful elevated views of Lake Geneva.
This wine is consistently awarded 90 points or higher year after year and is a favorite among wine enthusiasts lucky enough to get their hands on a bottle. This wine can be tough to track down, and usually costs around $75 a bottle.
Louis Bovard Calamin Grand Cru ‘Ilex’ is a popular wine from Vaud that is well known as a crowd pleaser. This is one of the top wines from the Calamin Grand Cru region, and its crisp minerality is well balanced by the complex layers of acid and green fruit.
German Speaking Switzerland
Unsurprisingly, the German-speaking portion of Switzerland is located on the northern edge of the country that shares a border with Germany.
The region comprises three main areas, each with a slightly different approach to winemaking.
The Basel region is located directly on Switzerland’s border with Germany, and the German influence is apparent in the wines.
The vast majority of plantings here are of Pinot Noir, and the finished product is known for its light body and fantastic balance of flavors.
Bottles of wine from the Basel region rarely make it outside the borders of Switzerland. A small amount is exported to Germany but is rarely seen in other parts of Europe, let alone the rest of the world.
Basel-Landschaft produces one of the best Pinot Noirs in the entire region. Located south of Basel and west of Zurich, the Aargau region primarily focuses on red wine production, with Pinot Noir leading all plantings.
85 percent of the red wine made here is Pinot Noir, which accounts for 60 percent of all grapes in the area.
This Pinot Noir offers fantastic value at around $55 a bottle, as it tastes like a $100 bottle or more when blind tasting.
The large city of Zurich’s surrounding region also produces a fair amount of wine, though platings in the area are shrinking every year due to urbanization.
Along with Pinot Noir, a grape called Muller-Thurgau is common here, which is a cross between Riesling and Sylvaner.
Weingut Erich Meier Pinot Noir Barrique is a very popular bottle of wine from the Zurich region, and it is a great value at around $40.
This Pinot Noir consistently ranks as one of the top 10 in Zurich, and it is one of the easier bottles of Swiss wine to find in other countries.
Geneva is the third largest wine-producing region in Switzerland, accounting for about 10 percent of all wine produced in the country.
There are 22 Premier Cru appellations located in Geneva, and many of the vineyards are small family-run operations.
Lake Geneva works to help moderate temperatures in this region, keeping vines from overheating during the summer and protecting them from frost during the winter. Many smaller plots are scattered amongst Geneva’s urban sprawl, with some very close to the city center.
The three most commonly planted grapes in this region are Gamay, Chasselas, and Pinot Noir, respectively.
There are also a wide variety of other wine grapes planted throughout Geneva, and everything from Sauvignon Blanc to rare local grape varietals can be found here.
La Cave de Geneve ‘Coeur de Clemence’ is an affordable bottle of wine that is very intriguing to sommeliers and wine enthusiasts throughout the world.
The wine is composed of the Gamaret grape, which is a cross between the French Gamay and Swiss Reichensteiner grapes.
Jean-Pierre Pellegrin Domaine Grand’Cour ‘P’ is a fantastic bottle of Geneva Pinot Noir that usually carries a price tag of around $60.
This bottle of wine is one of the most sought after from the Geneva region and is incredibly consistent from vintage to vintage.
The same producer also makes one of the most popular bottles of Chardonnay in the region. Jean-Pierre Pellegrin Domaine Grand’Cour ‘C’ is one of the most popular white wines from Geneva, and it is often available for purchase directly from Switzerland online.
While the Ticino region only accounts for seven percent of all wine production in the country, it is world-renowned for its top-tier representations of the Merlot grape.
Merlot accounts for about 80 percent of all plantings in this region and is becoming increasingly popular year after year.
Merlot from the Ticino region of Switzerland is often categorized as “light” compared to Merlot from the famous Bordeaux region of France.
These wines are carefully oaked to accentuate the natural flavors of the Merlot grape without throwing them out of balance.
Zanini Castello Luigi Rosso del Ticino is an upscale Bordeaux blend from Ticino that combines the history of French winemaking with the precision of Swiss engineering.
This famous bottle of Swiss wine is great with steak dinners, and typically costs $160 or more per bottle!
Vinattieri Ticinesi produces a top-tier bottle of Merlot that often draws prices of over $140 per bottle. This upscale single varietal wine consistently draws scores in the 90s from wine critics worldwide, and with good reason.
Wines of Switzerland – Conclusion
The country of Switzerland is considered by many wine enthusiasts to be one of the best-kept secrets in the world of wine.
Along with recognizable favorites like Pinot Noir, the country is also home to local grape varietals that produce some of the most unique and delicious wines in the entire world. Bottles of Swiss wine can be hard to come by, as the country is not a major wine emperor.