The Romans planted vines in the Basel and Windisch area around the turn of the century and founded viticulture. In the 6th century AD, monks from Burgundy founded the monastery of St. Maurice near Aigle in the canton of Vaud and cultivated vineyards. In the middle of the 8th century, there is evidence of vineyards in the Rhine valley in Chur and on Lake Constance. As elsewhere in Europe, viticulture was cultivated by the Cistercians in the Middle Ages. They founded the Hautcrèt Palézieux monastery and planted the first terraced vineyard on Lake Geneva in the canton of Vaud in 1142. The Dézaley area is still one of the best appellations in Switzerland today. From the beginning of the confederation of the three cantons of Schwyz, Uri and Unterwalden in 1291 until the 18th century, wine production increased steadily. Around the year 1850, the vineyards covered around 35,000 hectares, more than twice as much as today. In the 19th century, viticulture suffered a decline due to foreign competition, as well as phylloxera and mildew, which reached Switzerland as one of the last European countries. After the Second World War, there was an upswing again
Switzerland is the most mountainous country in Europe (after Albania) and the Alps with their foothills also have a strong influence on viticulture. The vineyards are mainly located at the beginning of the three large river valleys Rhône in the west, Rhine in the north and Po in the south. In these valleys and along the many lakes, many vineyards are located on glacial moraines with mostly terraced steep slopes of up to 70%. The Riebe vineyard near the municipality of Visperterminen at 1,100 metres above sea level is the highest vineyard in Central Europe. Particularly on the southern side of the Alps, with the largest wine-growing region, Valais, there are many hours of sunshine but relatively little precipitation. Only Ticino, which lies to the south, has a lot of precipitation. Linguistically, Switzerland is divided into the three wine-growing regions of western Switzerland (French Switzerland with three-quarters of the vineyard area), eastern Switzerland (German Switzerland - the "land of red country wines" and the smallest area) and Ticino in the south (Italian Switzerland). For this reason, German, Italian and French influences are reflected in the diverse wine culture.
Red wine varieties occupy slightly more than half of the total area. The most common are Pinot Noir (Blauburgunder) and Gamay, only in Italian-speaking Switzerland (Ticino) does Merlot clearly dominate with over 80%. Among the white wine varieties, Chasselas (here also called Dorin, Fendant and Perlan) clearly predominates, followed by Müller-Thurgau (here Riesling x Sylvaner) - the name is a memorial to the Swiss winegrowing pioneer Dr Hermann Müller-Thurgau (1850-1927). In Eastern Switzerland (German-speaking Switzerland) there is almost a monoculture, here the red wine variety Pinot Noir dominates with about 70% of the area. Americano, which was planted after the phylloxera disaster, accounts for about 15% and is used especially in Ticino for table grapes and grappa. Old growths are the numerous old autochthonous grape varieties cultivated mainly in the canton of Valais. The grape variety index 2010 (ex Kym Anderson):