You’re cruising low over the snowcapped Alps en route to Barcelona and sipping a minerally Château de Montagny Grand Cru from Jean and Michel Dizerens—a wine that originates in Switzerland’s UNESCO-listed Lavaux region. Below you lie sculptured wine terraces perched on the shore of crystalline Lake Geneva—possibly the very vineyard that produced your wine. It’s just one of the benefits of traveling through a small country with more than ten major wine regions, some of which date back to Roman times.
Award-winning Swiss wines are always a pleasure to drink, but they’re not always easy to find abroad. Only 1% of what’s produced is exported—a fact lamented by some of the world’s most prominent wine critics. But there will always be an excellent selection of them on every SWISS flight, especially in SWISS First and SWISS Business, giving you the opportunity to sample an authentic taste of Switzerland before you even arrive. What’s more, it’s an expert team that hand-selects the wines, ensuring that you have the best of what Switzerland offers and that it pairs well with your food.
Here are some things to know about Swiss wines and how they enhance the unforgettable experience of flying SWISS.
Decoding Swiss Grapes
Unlike monolingual France, wines in multilingual Switzerland aren’t controlled by a centralized appellation council, so grape names vary canton to canton, making casual tastings an impromptu lesson in European languages. Chasselas, also called Fendant, is the most popular grape grown in Switzerland, and most likely the wine you’ll encounter on board a SWISS flight. Some grapes have completely different names depending on the region: Sylvaner, for instance, is called Johannisberg in one area and Gros Rhin in another.
Unique expressions of whites worth seeking out in the wine shops at Zurich Airport (or on board if you’re lucky) include Amigne, Petite Arvine, and Heida; and reds like Dôle, Humagne Rouge, and Carminoir—just to name a few. Also keep an eye out for Vin des glaciers—a sherry-style wine stored in larch wood barrels that’s made primarily from the Swiss grape Rèze in Canton Valais.
Photo by Dino Reichmuth
Know Your Swiss Wine Regions
Each of Switzerland’s ten major wine regions offers something different and unique. Here are a few of the highlights:
- Canton Valais produces over a third of all Swiss wines and is also home to some of Europe’s highest-altitude vineyards in Visperterminen, where vineyards rise to more than 3,600 feet.
- Lavaux, which features sculpted grape terraces in Canton Vaud on Lake Geneva, are a UNESCO-World Heritage site and hark back to at least the 11th century, when monks developed the warming terracing system the grapes still benefit from today.
- Bündner Herrschaft, nicknamed Heidiland for being the stomping ground of fictional Swiss heroine Heidi, is located in the Rhine Valley of Canton Graubünden; it produces over 45 varietals but is known primarily for its Blauburgunder (Pinot Noir) grapes.
- Ticino, an Italian-speaking canton located on the southern slopes of the Alps, is renowned for its full-bodied Merlots, which make up 90% of production there.
Sampling Wines on Board SWISS
Wines served on board a SWISS flight are chosen by an expert team as the perfect complement to meals created by the award-winning chefs—all bearing Michelin stars and/or Gault Millau points—who are part of the airline’s SWISS Taste of Switzerland program. Available to SWISS First and SWISS Business passengers, this unique offering gives passengers the opportunity to try cuisines from different areas of the country, accompanied by expertly paired wines from Switzerland and beyond.
Some of those wines served in SWISS Business have included reds, such as a 2017 Sélection from the Schmid Wetli estate; a Domaine Grange Volet 2017 Pinot Noir from the cellars of Henri Badoux in the Lavaux; and a 2017 Syrah de Sierre from Canton Valais. And Switzerland’s popular whites have included a Riesling-Silvaner Zurich AOC; a nutty white Merlot from Giubiasco; and a Schafiser Bielersee AOC Chasselas—which pairs particularly well with another Swiss specialty…melted cheese.
To sample Switzerland’s wines for yourself—both on board and in-country—book a flight now on SWISS.