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Switzerland is a country of rugged mountains and lakes in Western Europe, with its people sharing the cultures and languages of Italy, Germany, France, and Austria. Its wines reflect this blend of ancestries, with grapes saluting all these nationalities. Wine grape seeds were found dating as far back as 3000 BC around Lake Neuchâtel, although it is unknown whether these were ever cultivated as wine. What is known is that the Romans brought vines into Switzerland some time around 100 BC and produced wine in the Valais area, planting Amigne, Arvine, and Rèze grapes. In the Middle Ages, Cistercian monks from Burgundy, France settled in Switzerland and established vineyards in Vaud. They studied soil types, and which grapes would be most suitable to Alpine climate conditions, though the wines they produced were often supplemented with mulling spices and honey. International trade had stepped up by the 17th century, with French wines, especially those from the Rhône, the most sought after commodity. In an effort to raise quality levels of Swiss wine to match France’s, wine-making expanded north, in warmer conditions away from the Alps. 

The late 1800s Phylloxera crisis hit Switzerland quite hard. Efforts to replant were mostly thwarted with more emphasis placed on property developments and industrialization. Wine production was forced farther into the Alpine areas. More recently, efforts to promote high quality wines from Switzerland have had some international success. The OIC (certification of origin inter-canton, translated into German, French, and Italian) has regulated the Swiss wine appellation system (as does the AOC in France, DOC in Italy, etc) since the 1980s, outlining its viticultural areas and emphasizing quality control measures. As with their watch-making, the Swiss are very precise when it comes to wine. Yields are controlled down to the kilogram per square meter (the French go by hectoliter per hectare), and sunlight averages are factored in mathematically to each canton’s ripeness potential. 
 
The dominant grape in Switzerland is Chasselas, which is referred to in different languages according to the region’s national affiliation. It has three French names besides Chasselas: Fondant and Perlan, Dorin when crossed with Chardonnay. In German parts it may be Gutedel. Other popular white grapes are Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Müller-Thurgau, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Semillon. 
 
In some areas such as Valais, Vaud, and Neuchâtel, identify with Burgundy, and this shows in their choice to grow Pinot Noir (Blaugurgunder) and Gamay. The Bordeaux grapes Merlot (especially in Ticino), Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc are also popular, as are the Rhône varietals Syrah and Marsanne. 
 
There are dozens of Swiss OIC in all. Most of the wine is produced within the south and south-west cantons Geneva, Neuchâtel, Ticino, Valais, and Vaud. Some quality wines are emerging from the North-east cantons Aargau, Schaffhausen, Thurgau, Zurich, and St. Gallen, among others. ~Amanda Schuster
– Description from Amanda Schuster

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