A Wine Lover's Guide to Switzerland

| © Kosala Bandara/ Flickr
Sean Mowbray

Wine isn’t what Switzerland is famous for, but that doesn’t mean it can’t make a good quality bottle or two. While it is made all over the country, most of the wine making takes place in the French speaking cantons but intriguingly, most of Switzerland’s wine that is exported, a tiny percentage goes to Germany.

The wine regions

Switzerland’s 26 cantons divide 15,000 hectares (around 0.2% of Switzerland’s surface area) of vineyards between them. Valais is the largest producer of wine (33%) by quite a margin and is home to over 100km of vineyards which follow the course of the Rhône.

Vaud is the second largest producer (25%) and where you’ll find the iconic Lavaux vineyards that stretch along the shore of Lake Geneva for over 30kms. It’s also a UNESCO cultural world heritage site as its current vine terraces can be traced back until at least the 11th century. The grapes of Lavaux are said to be blessed with “three suns”. The first is the sun itself, the second is the heat that eminates from the stone terraces and the third is the reflection from the lake.

Geneva produces around 10% of Switzerland’s wines. As you exit the city, you can find yourself surrounded by vineyards.

Ticino is the Italian part of Switzerland that is regularly bathed in sunshine, making it a great area for wine-making, yet it only produces around 7% of the country’s total.

The rest of Switzerland’s wines (around 25%) are spread out across the German speaking cantons and the Three Lakes area of Lake Neuchâtel, Lake Biel and Lake Morat.

The views from the vineyards of Lavaux are best enjoyed with a glass in hand

Which grapes are grown?

According to Swisswine.ch, over 200 different varieties of grape are grown in Switzerland. Pinot Noir, Chasselas, Gamay and Merlot are the most widely grown, making up 72% of total production. Although food&wine.com has its own best Swiss wine list which disagrees. Most Swiss wines are unknown to the outside world, so it’s best to dive right in and have a tasting session of your own, for research purposes, of course.

Over 200 grape varieties are grown in Switzerland

The Best Swiss wines

With Swiss wine being a relatively unexplored area of the market, it is hard to pin point the best available as they are so varied between each of the cantons. According to the Best of Swiss Wine awards for 2017, the top five Swiss wines were: Gamaret/Garanoir Zürichsee, Saliser Grande Selection, Chardonnay Barrique, Fläscher Pinot Noir Alte Reben and the Fläscher Pinot Noir Barrique. Although food&wine.com has its own best Swiss wine list, which disagrees with this one.

Best wine for fondue

The question that is on everyone’s lips. It’s well known that having a tipple of wine helps with digesting a cheese heavy meal like fondue. A dry wine is recommended as the perfect accompaniment to your meal, Sauvignon Blanc is one possible option.

Where to sample the wine

Wine tastings are available across the country, but the best time above all is during the locally famous caves ouvertes. Every year during Spring, Early Summer and Autumn, Switzerland’s wine makers throw open their cellars and offer tastings for the price of a single glass (usually between 10 to 20 CHF). If you find yourself in the German speaking cantons, don’t fret as the tradition is also marked but is just known as offene keller. Lavaux’s equally famous wine tour is one way to sample the flavours of Vaud’s many wine makers that have cafés, cellars and restaurants, where you can sample their products.

The caves ouvertes are the perfect place to sample Switzerland’s many wines

How to say cheers

The Swiss don’t do cheers like everyone else. You have to look your drinking partner directly in the eye when you clink glasses, which can be a little off putting. Depending on where you are in the country you’ll drink to salute, santé or proscht.

landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

Edit article