Why you should try the wines from Vaud... In partnership with Lake Geneva Region Tourist Office
In partnership with Lake Geneva Region Tourist Office
Everything to know about Lake Geneva wine
The Lake Geneva Region is distinguished by its devotion to Chasselas. The region’s prodigious diversity of soils and terroirs – the product of glaciers, rivers and mountains – gives variety and complexity to what can justifiably be called Switzerland’s signature grape.
Lake Geneva wine: The climate
The climate is greatly influenced by the lake, which creates ideal conditions for vine-growing and winemaking.
In Lavaux, the most celebrated sub-region between Lausanne and Vevey, they talk of the vineyards being bathed in three suns: firstly the direct sunlight, then the reflected rays from the lake and, finally, the heat absorbed by the extensive network of stone walls, which return their warmth to the vineyards during the night.
Lake Geneva wine: The grapes
While Chasselas takes the lion’s share of wine production in volume terms, other white wine varieties are increasingly found.
Classic Chasselas is light (hovering around the 12% mark) with fugitive floral aromas and a slight prickle from the (naturally present) CO2 in the bottle, which gives it a lift and makes it an appealing aperitif wine.
This style of Chasselas – usually a domaine’s entry-level wine – is best drunk within a year of bottling, preferably on one of the many terraces overlooking the lake, possibly accompanying a plate of filets de perches, Switzerland’s favourite dish of fried lake-fish fillets.
More ‘serious’ and structured wines with the ability to age up to 20 years come from the greatest terroirs of the central Lavaux region.
The over-productive, less interesting clones planted a generation ago are gradually being replaced by selections better suited to the terroir and climate, and winemakers are learning to work with – and, perhaps more importantly, without – oak.
The result has been a noteworthy increase in the quality of the region’s reds, which regularly win plaudits and prizes in prestigious local competitions, such as the annual Grand Prix du Vin Suisse, or international contests like the Decanter World Wine Awards.
Look out, too, for Gamaret and Garanoir, two siblings created by the Swiss Viticultural Research Station (now at Changins), each of them a Gamay Noir x Reichensteiner cross and approved for planting in the 1990s.
Gamaret is valued for its resistance to rot, good colour, supple tannins and relatively low alcohol, while Garanoir ripens earlier, is also resistant to rot with more fruity, spicy qualities and higher alcohol than its sibling.
Although sometimes vinified separately, they are most often blended, either together, or paired variously with Gamay, Pinot Noir, Merlot or Cabernet Franc (the latter two are also found as single varietals).
Visiting the region
This is a warmly hospitable region with a mix of old-established, but young-at-heart growers and a younger generation who travel and taste widely, and are not afraid to experiment with new varieties and new production methods.
Most wine-growers are multilingual, love to practise their English and relish the relative novelty of introducing their wines to visitors from abroad.