Swiss Wine: The Best Wine You've Never Tasted

“It’s difficult to export wine because we drink a lot” is the response I got when asking why Swiss wine does not exist on the international market.

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Switzerland, a tiny independent country in the heart of Europe with a population of 7.5 million, is divided further by languages; French, Italian, German, and Romanche. While each region is actively involved in wine production, the most action occurs in the French part, specifically in the cantons Neuchatel, Geneva, Vaud and Valais. Lakes and rivers play a large role in regulating the effects of the Alps. Most of these vineyards grow on steep southThe Swiss Alps (Click Image to Enlarge) facing slopes with increased sun exposure; Neuchatel vines sit by a small lake of the same name, Geneva and Vaud stretch over the northern part of Lake Geneva (or locally known Lac Leman), and Valais vineyards follow the banks of the famed Rhone River through a narrow valley. With such extreme topographies at once including mountainous terrain, large bodies of water, and every type of soil in between, these vineyards can sustain over a hundred grape varieties.Lake Geneva (Click Image to Enlarge)

In Valais alone (which is the most productive canton, accounting for over 40% of Swiss wines) there are 49 varieties under the AOC Valais label. Still the most prevalent varieties are Pinot Noir, Chasselas, and Gamay. There is also a rising interest in local grapes (Cornalin, Petit Arvine and Humagne Rouge) and to varieties that are well suited for the ValaisValais Valley Switzerland (Click Image to Enlarge) conditions such as Syrah and Pinot Gris.

Wines are largely sold under the name of the varietal, along with the trade name of the producer and the AOC designation. However because of attachments between vines and their locations, some titles include the grape alongside the place of production. For example: Fendant at Sion, Chardonnay at Conthey, Amigne at Vetroz, and Johannisberg at Chamoson.

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.