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Swiss wine is produced from nearly 15,000 hectares (37,000 acres) of vineyards, and the wines are mainly produced in the west and in the south of Switzerland, in the cantons of Geneva, Neuchâtel, Ticino, Valais and Vaud. White grapes varieties are grown on 42% of the country's vineyard surface, and red grape varieties on 58%.
According to data from the Swiss Federal Office of Agriculture, the Swiss wine production in 2009 was just over 110 million litres (29,000,000 US gal; 24,000,000 imp gal), divided into 52,700,000 L (13,900,000 US gal; 11,600,000 imp gal) of white wine and 58,700,000 L (15,500,000 US gal; 12,900,000 imp gal) of red wine.
Nearly all the national production is drunk within the national boundaries; less than 2% of the wine is exported (mainly to Germany). Switzerland ranks in the top 10 of per capita consumption of wine, and as of 1983 imported two thirds of it, including more Beaujolais than the United States.
The first bottle, made in ceramic, was found near Sembrancher (Valais), in a Celtic tomb of a lady of 2nd century BC. An inscription on the bottle indicates that it contained wine. Around the 150s BC, in the Celtic era, the people in Valais offered wine to the dead, and probably they also drank the same wine. After a century, the Roman amphorae also appeared.
The two most common grape varieties in Switzerland are the red Pinot noir at around 30% and the white Chasselas at around 27%. A large number of grape varieties are cultivated in Switzerland, many of them indigenous or regional specialties. Some 90 grape varieties are cultivated on an area of 1 hectare (2.5 acres) or more.
Common grape varieties in Switzerland (2009, all varieties greater than 50 ha) Variety Color Synonym(s) Area (%) Area (ha) Pinot noir red Blauburgunder 29.7 4402 Chasselas white Gutedel 27.1 4013 Gamay red 10.2 1514 Merlot red 6.9 1028 Müller-Thurgau white 3.3 493 Gamaret red 2.6 380 Chardonnay white 2.2 321 Sylvaner white Rhin 1.6 241 Pinot gris white Malvoisie 1.5 216 Garanoir red 1.4 203 Syrah red 1.2 181 Petite Arvine white 1.0 154 Sauvignon blanc white 0.9 134 Humagne rouge red 0.9 128 Cornalin red Landroter 0.8 116 Diolinoir red 0.8 112 Pinot blanc white 0.7 105 Savagnin blanc white Heida 0.6 83 Cabernet Sauvignon red 0.4 63 Cabernet Franc red 0.4 54 All white varieties 42.1 6245 All red varieties 57.9 8574 Grand total 100.0 14820
For a long time, Switzerland lacked detailed national regulations regarding wine classification, which meant that it was to a large extent up to wine producers about what to put on wine labels; neither a German wine-style Prädikat system or a French wine-style appellation system was implemented, and as a non-EU member, Switzerland did not have to implement European Union wine regulations. Wines were usually labelled by their village of origin, by grape variety, or using a brand name. From the late 1980s, though, a French-style Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée system started to be implemented, starting with the Canton of Geneva. These regulations are mainly implemented by the cantons themselves.
Over the years, the Swiss have developed a number of unique specialty wines from grapes rarely found outside Switzerland. These include:
- Vin des glaciers—a sherry-style wine that utilizes a solera system of wine stored in larch wood or oak barrels that are never fully emptied with newer vintages being added to the barrels containing the older vintages. The wines are primarily made from the Swiss wine grape Rèze in Valais canton.
- Office fédéral de l’agriculture OFAG: Das Weinjahr 2009 / L'année d'viticole 2009 Archived 2011-07-07 at the Wayback Machine
- Brostrom, Geralyn G.; Brostrom, Jack (2008-12-30). The Business of Wine: An Encyclopedia: An Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. pp. 234–. ISBN 9780313354014. Retrieved 7 May 2013.
- McPhee, John (1983-10-31). "La Place de la Concorde Suisse-I". The New Yorker. p. 50. Retrieved 22 July 2013.
- About Wine. Cengage Learning. 2011-03-08. pp. 367–. ISBN 9781439056509.
- McCarthy; Ewing-Mulligan, Mary (2011-03-03). Wine For Dummies. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 203–. ISBN 9781118050712. Retrieved 7 May 2013.
- J. Robinson, J. Harding and J. Vouillamoz Wine Grapes - A complete guide to 1,368 vine varieties, including their origins and flavours pg 687 Allen Lane 2012 ISBN 978-1-846-14446-2
- Jancis Robinson, ed. (2006). "Switzerland". Oxford Companion to Wine (Third ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 671. ISBN 0-19-860990-6.
- My Switzerland "Vin des glaciers - Le "sherry" du Valais" Official Switzerland Tourism Site. Accessed: August 18th, 2012
- J. Robinson Jancis Robinson's Guide to Wine Grapes pg 152 Oxford University Press 1996 ISBN 0198600984