Wine Characteristics & Styles
Because Switzerland is comprised of fairly autonomous cantons, the federal government is restricted in how much regulation can be applied to wine. Of course, the lack of an overall regulating body creates some confusion and complication in wine classifications. From the national level, grapes are classified as either Class I, II, or III. Class I grapes have the most sugar content and are considered the best quality. Grapes with a Class I designation are allowed to label the wine as an Appellation of Origin (AOC). These grapes typically come from a single location or vineyard. Grapes with a class II designation – lower sugar content and not as high of quality – are typically allowed a generic indication of origin label, which means the grapes can come from an area larger than a single canton. Finally, Class III grapes, which are the lowest grade, are typically labeled table wine. Grapes used for table wine can come from anywhere in Switzerland. Cantons are also given the authority to further restrict and classify wines, which means there are quite a few differing regulations for wine producers in Switzerland.
For some reason, Helvetians have never really been too fond of acidity in their wine. They are rather quick to regard a wine as too acidic or even vinegary. This attitude is supported by the widely used vinification process of Swiss wines. This process minimizes the harsh acids, and gives the wine a smooth and buttery feel. Most Swiss wines round and balanced, and typically as neutral as the Swiss themselves.
Today, there is a new generation of Swiss wine producers emerging. Mostly, these individuals took over the businesses of their more traditional parents, and are instituting new ideas throughout the entire wine-making process. The wines in Switzerland have never been so interesting, and are no longer comprised of only buttery and neutral white wines. There are interesting sparkling wines to discover, unique whites and reds from indigenous and highly regional grape varieties, a good mix of light- to full-bodied wines, and some extremely rare and highly sought after sweet wines.