While Switzerland is synonymous with cheese and chocolate, few people would associate this Alpine country with wine. Yet many regions in Switzerland produce their own wine, and Swiss people appreciate having a glass from time to time (enough to keep it mostly in the country). Get to know this popular drink on your next trip to Switzerland; visit a vineyard, meet the winemakers, and sample their specialties.
Swiss wines have grown to the point where they are now considered an insider secret in international expert circles. Of the 28.2 million gallons of wine produced yearly in Switzerland, 98% is still consumed within the country. Given this small volume of exports (just 2%), it is even more surprising that Swiss wines have been creating such a stir overseas and in international competitions. Everyone agrees that Swiss wines are of extremely high quality.
Switzerland has six wine-growing regions, offering a vast diversity of terroirs: Vaud, Valais, Geneva, Ticino, the Three-Lakes area, and the German-speaking area of Switzerland. Having more than 250 varieties of grapes under cultivation gives Swiss wines a character beyond comparison.
Gastronomy and culture are intertwined in the winemaking tradition, which dates to the Roman Era. Learn more about how vines are grown and the wines are produced on a wine tour, or by visiting one of the cellars during the Caves Ouvertes, when they open for a few days in May. In September or October, many activities are organized for people to experience the wine harvest firsthand with producers. After a day of back-breaking work picking grapes, volunteers can relax and taste the fruit of their effort – but it’s at the end of the harvest when everyone really lets loose, dancing, drinking, and singing till the wee hours of the night, with each vineyard hosting its own private celebratory dinner where wine flows like water and live music fills the air. You can also visit the vineyards the rest of the year, enjoy a wine-tasting session, or hike one of the country’s stunning wine trails.
Many other viticultural activities exist as well, such as museums and interactive centers. Or, do as the locals do and combine your favorite activity with a dégustation, (tasting), for instance, cycling on a Wine & Bike tour, sightseeing (several cultural landmarks are near vineyards )– or even swimming in the lake. Just don’t forget to say Santé! Prost! Viva! Cin cin!