Wine Regions And Producers
Reading A Swiss Wine Label

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Swiss wines are mostly drunk locally by a prosperous, wine loving nation. Prices have always been high; standards are rising as outside influences penetrate the alpine valleys.

Efficiency has long been a necessity in the vineyards of Switzerland, where demand for wine far exceeds the amount that can be produced in often difficult terrain: the Swiss each drink about 20 litres of their own and some 30 litres of imported wine a year. Vineyards clinging to south-facing slopes along the river valleys, and beside lakes (which Some reflect heat), are difficult to cultivate, and the high production costs make Swiss wine expensive. In the past the drive for efficiency, with excessive use of fertilizers and over-production, often resulted in wines with little acidity. Yields for the better wines are now legally restricted, although some people feel that 112hl/ha is still too much if vines are not to become exhausted too soon.

The average size of vineyard holding - less than half a hectare (1.2 acres) - is one-third of the figure for the EC; most growers leave winemaking to large wineries or cooperative cellars. There is also a growing number of small estate -bottlers, often managed by young people from the viticultural schools of Wadenswil and Changins. For years most wine was simply an everyday drink, but today training and experience gained elsewhere in Europe and the New World are helping to produce Swiss wines of a quality previously unknown. Vines are grown in most parts, making both red and white wines, but the most important vineyards are found in the French-speaking cantons of Valais and Vaud, Almost all Swiss wines are dry and 56% is white. The main white grape in the French cantons is Chasselas, which generally produces a wine to be drunk within three years, but can surprise by being more than drinkable after 25. To avoid tasting flat it is bottled with some of the natural carbon dioxide retained in the wine. Relatively neutral in taste, good Chasselas can show character and flavour from its soil. In the German-speaking cantons the predominant white variety is Riesling-Sylvaner - the Swiss name for Muller-Thurgau. Pinot Noir, known here as Blauburgunder, is the country's top red grape. It also makes Oeil de Perdrix ("partridge eye"), a pale rose, in the French-speaking cantons. But in the warmer Italian canton of Ticino, Merlot reigns supreme to make some of the country's best reds.

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