Neolithic age grape seeds have been found near St-Blaise but it was the Romans who brought widespread vine cultivation to Switzerland. The industry flourished during Cistercian monastic influence. The 19th Century decimated the industry and liberal use of artificial fertiliser didn't help quality or the image. Now we're pleased to report quality is improving and there are some super examples venturing outside of the borders.
Chasselais, Sylvaner, Muller-Thurgau and Chardonnay are the most common white grapes. Pinot noir, Gamay and Merlot for the reds. There are regional preferences, influenced by the dominant language.
Climate and Conditions
The climate is continental although altitude severely restricts widespread cultivation. The influence of lakes and fohn, a warming wind, allows grapes to ripen fully while sunlight hours can exceed 2,500 hours/year in the country's south west. The large bodies of water however attract mildew problems. The steep inclines restrict mechanised cultivation to the flatter plains and terracing is commonplace.
The Classification System
The OIC classification system has three separate titles for the three official languages, French, Italian & German. It's responsible for defining regions, wine quality standards and laws, even stipulating yield by kg per metre squared.
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