The Swiss Wine Guide. Discover Cool Facts about Valais and Vaud
What a great pleasure it is to drive through the terrace vineyards along the shores of Lake Geneva. Traveling through tunnels on this journey towards the mountainous landscapes of Valais to watch grapes grow on the rocky slopes is an incredibly beautiful sight.
Vineyard panoramas in Switzerland are probably considered the most picturesque views in the world. This is one the reasons why the Terrace Vineyards of Lavaux have been placed on the UNESCO’s List of World Heritage Sites. This beautiful site is outstanding and universal, and has become a place of inspiration for of artists and musicians alike, such as Prince.
Switzerland is the country where 98% of all wines are consumed domestically. The wine exports accounts for 2% of the total volume. All 26 Swiss cantons have at least a few vineyards, but only 4 of them are responsible for two-thirds of all wine production – Valais, Vaud, Geneva, and Ticino. German-speaking Switzerland, a united cross-cantonal area that includes Basel, Zurich, Zug, St. Gallen, Graubünden, etc., supplies to the market around 19% of all wine production.
The Swiss cantons cultivate around 240 grape varieties, but Chasselas, Pinot Noir, Gamay, and Merlot are the kings as they represent almost 72% of the total volume. UISSEPIC had a chance to ride, hike, and walk across vineyard Switzerland, and we are now ready to share our experience.
Canton of Valais
4,976 Ha, 600 producers
1,886 Ha, white grapes
3,090 Ha, red grapes
The Canton of Valais accounts for more than 30% of the total Swiss wine volume. Its 13 wine valleys are spread over a hundred kilometers along the Rhone River, stretching from the village of Salgesch in the East to Martigny in the West. Salgesch, Sion, Fully, and Chamoson are the main wine-producing areas in Valais.
The climate of Valais is sunny and dry. The quality of the soil makes it possible to cultivate more than 60 different types of grapes. However, Valais is particularly known for its red wines. Pinot Noir accounts for 30% of total volume, Gamay’s share is about 12% of all planted grapes. The percentage of planted white Chasselas in Valais accounts for more than 18%.
The recipes for all wines produced here are ancient, and are relatively unknown outside the area. Vineyards in this particular area have been planted since the Roman Empire. The pride that comes with producing wine in Valais is praised at the Wine Museum, which is split between Château de Villa (Sierre) and Maison Zumofen (Salgesch). These two sites are connected by a 66 kilometer Wine Trail that offers picturesque views of vineyards as well as small villages.
Canton of Vaud
3,784 Ha, 450 producers
2,498 Ha, white grapes
1,286 Ha, red grapes
The Canton of Vaud supplies around 25% of the total wine volume to the market. All production is concentrated in 4 main areas. Because of the mild lake climate, this creates particularly favorable conditions for vineyard cultivation.
Near the west(ern) shore of Lake Geneva is La Côte and its vineyards in Féchy, Mont-sur-Rolle, Vinzel, Perroy, and Aubonne. The Lavaux region extends from Lausanne to Montreux, with the main wine producers in Dezaley, Epesses, Saint-Saphorin, and Mosel. The east(ern) part of Vaud is Villeneuve, where its wine production is concentrated in Chablais, Yvorne, Aigle, and Bex. The north(ern) part of Vaud’s wine production is concentrated at Bonvillars, Cotes de l’Orbe, and Vully.
With all the choices, where should one start when it comes to wine in Vaud? Well, try the Grand Cru, which is made up of Vaud’s Chasselas, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris. Every wine season, producers in the Canton of Vaud open up their caves to the public and celebrate the taste of Swiss wine. One of the famous events is the Caves Ouvertes, which is held regularly in May. Every 25 years, the Vaudoises hold an event called the Fête des in Vevey, which celebrates the work of a wine producer.
The Swiss quality and the Swiss oenology are well-known worldwide. In 1948, the French-speaking cantons of Fribourg, Genève, Jura, Neuchâtel, Valais, and Vaud founded one of the most prestigious schools of oenology in the world (CHANGINS), creating unique career opportunities for those interested in the wine industry. Since 2008, the students have the option to listen to a 4-week program in English during Summer University. In 2014, CHANGINS began offering courses to prepare potential candidates for the Federal Sommelier Diploma. As a whole, the school offers more than 60 courses for about 300 amateurs and professionals every year.