Wine Touring around Lake Geneva
First time visitors to Switzerland are often surprised to see wine grapes growing on the Swiss hillsides. Although Switzerland ranks about 25th in the world in wine production, grapes are grown in every canton of Switzerland, with la Suisse romande (French speaking cantons, e.g. Geneva, Vaud and Valais) producing over 80% of the country’s wine. Swiss vines are planted at the highest elevations in Europe and the hillside vineyards are extremely difficult to work. Switzerland’s latitude, between 45 and 47 degrees, is suitable for fine wine production, but due to the elevation, extensive cultivation is not possible. The white Chaselas grape (Fendant in Valais) accounts for about 60% of wine production but many other varieties are also planted. The most interesting and delicious white varietal is Petite Arvine, an ancient, indigenous grape. Gamay is the most popular red varietal, along with pinot noir.
Take a drive north from Geneva along Lac Leman and get a spectacular view of the vineyards on sunlit slopes. Geneva itself has 15,000 acres of vines and around 100 wineries. Some of the best wines on the lake are produced in Vaud between Lausanne and Montreux in the villages of Dezaley, Epesses, St.-Saphorin, Fechy—all from the Chasselas grape. For a list of Vaud wineries: http://www.wine-searcher.com/merchants/switzerlandx-vaud,winery,134