5 Fascinating Facts About the Wines of Switzerland

hut-1681485_1920I know you may find this hard to believe, but I have uttered my fair share of dumb things through the years.

It’s true.

When my wife and I were on our pre-honeymoon about five years ago, one of our stops was to see a long-time friend in the beautiful village of Engelberg in Switzerland. One day, while strolling the cobblestone streets, we came upon a sandwich shop and decided to have lunch there.

The sandwich I selected came with a choice of cheese, and that provided me with the opportunity to stick a foot in my mouth.

“Well, we’re visiting Switzerland for the first time,” I said. “So I’ll have Swiss cheese.”

The young lady behind the counter paused, and then realized what she was dealing with. Without a drop of sarcasm in her voice she asked, “What type of Swiss cheese?”

That’s when the imaginary light bulb appeared above my head and I realized that all cheese made in Switzerland was Swiss cheese — not just the hole-filled white version we think of here in the States.

Now, as we’re planning a return trip to Europe in 2021 — since planning anything in 2020 probably would be for naught — we know that we will be spending three days in Switzerland. One will be devoted entirely to visiting “wine country.”

So, we’re beginning to do our homework, which will help us decide where we’d like to explore some wine cellars. Here are five things we’ve learned thus far…

1. Wine grapes have been grown in Switzerland since Roman times.

  1. Only 0.4 percent of Switzerland’s total surface area — about 37,000 acres — is covered with grapevines. Sound small? Well, on a vineyards-to-surface-area ratio, that actually puts Switzerland at No. 10 among all wine-producing countries.
  2. One of the main reasons we’re looking forward to the trip is because not much Swiss wine finds its way to the United States. That’s because the Swiss drink practically all the wine they produce. Their “export market,” miniscule though it may be, consists almost entirely of Germany.
  3. We have to decide which of the six grape-growing regions we want to explore. Valais is the largest, accounting for 33 percent of the total wine, followed by Vaud (25 percent), German-speaking Switzerland (19 percent), Geneva (10 percent), Ticino (7 percent) and the Three Lakes region, which covers Neuchatel, Morat and Biel/Bienne (5 percent).
  4. Switzerland’s most famous wine-growing area is the UNESCO World Heritage site of Lavaux in Vaud. It dates from the 12th century when Cistercian monks planted the Dezaley vineyard in terraces on the slopes next to Lake Geneva. Dezaley is known for its fine Chasselas wines and is one of only two vineyards in the region to possess the superior “Grand Cru” classification. 

Dezaley sounds like a solid destination, and Chasselas ranks high on our “to-taste” list.

Wherever we decide to go, I’ll keep doing homework to get ready. I’m living proof that the person who said, “There are no dumb questions,” had no idea what they were talking about.

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Posted in Our Wine Travel Log
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