Despite being the most mountainous country in Europe and though more associated with chocolate than wine the country actually has a long vinous history. Grape seeds from the Neolithic age, between 3000-1800BC have been discovered in parts of Switzerland. However it was probably the Romans who first cultivated the vine here.
This legacy was to be continued through the Middle Ages under the auspices of religious groups. The most noted being the Cistercians who established the abbey at Dézaley. The lands of Switzerland being difficult to cultivate, has lead many Swiss through out its history to seek employment outside its boundaries as mercenaries.
This has contributed to the theory that the variety of vines grown in Switzerland was a result of mercenaries bringing them home from war. In fact Chasselas, Switzerland most prominent variety is believed to been introduced by a general who fought for Louis XV. The Pinot plant was imported in 1848, and the Dôle (under Valais), was first produced about 1851.
The country now produces 80% of the worlds Chasselas. When the viticulture crisis of the 19th century struck, Switzerland was one of the hardest hit. The accumulative effects of downy mildew, phylloxera and powdery mildew along with foreign competition meant that between 1877 and 1957 Switzerland's vineyard area declined by 60% Switzerland can be divided into three basic areas - French-speaking, German speaking, and Italian-speaking. The country produces in the region of a million hl from less than 15,000 ha's. Most of the wine produced is consumed locally and approximately two thirds are white.
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