It was most probably the Romans who brought the viniculture to Switzerland. The existence of autochthonal grape varieties and numerous findings of grape seeds during excavations support this theory. Archeological evidence is still missing, however. Yet, vine certainly has been cultivated here since the 6th century influenced by the Cistercians. The Swiss vintners had to get through their first crisis in the 17th century induced by the high import of wines from the south. In the 19th century the grape vine louse and the powdery mildew were the reason for another low in viniculture.
Vine is mainly grown in Wallis, in the French speaking western part of the country and in the Three-Lakes region. As the demand for wine in Switzerland is bigger than its production, only one to two percent of the produced wine is exported.
The conditions for cultivation are modest due to the high mountains. Many vineyards are on high slopes and, consequently, they have to be cultivated by hand. At the moment the area for vine growing is about 15,000 hectares big and produces about the same amount of red and white vines.
Chasselas, Müller-Thurgau, Chardonnay, Silvaner, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Petite Arvine and Sauvignon Blanc are the most popular white wines produced in Switzerland.
Pinot Noir, Gamay, Merlot, Gamaret, Syrah, Humagne Rouge and Cornalin are the most popular reds.
There are also some autochtonal varieties produced, such as Petite Arvine, Amigne, Cornalin and Humagne Rouge. Additionally, there are some smaller vineyards where new varieties are grown, like Gamaret, Garanoir or Diolinoir.
The Swiss wine law provides for three wine categories:
Category I: Controlled appellations with defined place of origin. The denotation for these wines is called AOC, followed by the name of the region of origin.
Category II: Vin de Pays (vin ordinaire)
Category III: Table vines