Swiss wine: a beginner’s guide

So you want to try out some Swiss wine, but don’t know where to start?

This content was published on September 15, 2003 - 08:11

swissinfo asked several wine experts for their recommendations.

“If I was at home offering Swiss wine to a guest, I’d probably reach for one of eastern Switzerland’s wonderful Pinot Noirs,” says Zurich wine journalist Erich Grasdorf. “Perhaps one of the wines produced by Hansueli Kesselring in Thurgau.

“Thurgau is not a place that’s particularly well-known among the wine-drinking public, but there are some great wines there, as well as in Zurich where I’d particularly recommend the Schwarzenbach wines from Meilen or the wines made by Urs Pircher in Eglisau.

“Further afield, I’d strongly suggest trying out the wine from canton Valais, because there’s an almost insane variety of vines there, including many unusual varieties.

"Pick up a Heida for example, or a Cornalin or a Humagne Rouge, maybe an Amigne, and you will hugely expand your knowledge of wine.”

Refreshing white

Diego Zenklusen of the Valais winemaker, Adrian Mathier, adds the Petite Arvine white wine to the list, which was first introduced to the Valais by the Romans.

Zenklusen also recommends Fendant made from Chasselas grapes, the most popular variety for white wine in Switzerland.

He says the vineyards around Sierre produce some of the best Fendant, which he describes as a “refreshing wine, almost sparkling, ideal with starters, fish or raclette and fondue”.


After himself making it into Grasdorf’s list of favourites, winemaker Urs Pircher from Eglisau was a little more reticent about naming specific vineyards.

“There are too many Swiss wines that I like,” Pircher laughed. “But a first-timer to Swiss wine should perhaps go for a Syrah from Valais or a canton Graubünden Pinot Noir,” he added.

“There are a lot of young winemakers producing some great stuff in Graubünden and the Pinots are particularly well-suited to the climate, especially when the Föhn wind is blowing in the autumn.

“The Syrah from Valais might not have quite as much body as an Australian or Californian Syrah, but it has a nice, good quality fruitiness.”


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