There are even outstanding Swiss white wines, certainly in the case of wines made close to the great lakes. Some Merlots from Ticino are better than the best French wines. It is however true that the prices of some wines are kept artificially high by the protectionist stance of the Swiss government and the fact that Swiss wine consumption is about the same as the production. Yet anyone who visits the terraces of Dezaley, Epesses, or Sion will realise that it costs as much to maintain one terrace as an entire vineyard elsewhere. It is possible that the Swiss government will soon help with subsidies to maintain the famous Swiss wine terraces. The Swiss open their borders to the import of wines in 2002. Swiss wine prices will clearly have to be revised but the businesses that specialise in quality and authenticity will be rewarded in the longer term.
Despite the presence of the mountains, conditions are highly beneficial for the Swiss wine-grower. Most of the vineyards are situated in valleys or close to the lakes. The vineyards in the valleys are warmed by the föhn, a warm airstream across the Alps, especially around Valais (Wallis), Grisons (Graubünderland), and north-east Switzerland. Near the lakes the light and heat from the sun is reflected by the surface of the water (Neuchatel, Geneva, and Vaud). The vines in many vineyards close to lakes are heated in three different ways because their soil consists of basalt and pebbles. The local growers describe it as having ‘three suns’, the direct sun, the reflected sun from the pebbles, and from the water. It does not get better than this. The sunniest parts of Switzerland are Ticino (which has a trace of Mediterranean climate, Valais (Wallis), and Vaud. It is not surprising that the best Swiss reds come from here. The Swiss wine-growing regions are dealt with individually because their soils vary widely.
Swiss wine region
Our tour of the Swiss wine regions starts in Itlian speaking Ticino, then ro Francophone Suisse Romande and finally to German speaking Ostchweiz.