Consistently ranked amongst the world’s top cities in quality of life surveys, Zürich - at the heart of the canton with which it shares a name, is a culturally vibrant metropolis synonymous with high quality, luxury and wealth. Situated on the northern shore of the Zürichsee, some thirty or so kilometres north of the high alpine peaks, the city and much of the surrounding canton enjoys a temperate climate with warm summers, cold winters and a clear distinction between seasons. However, such is the diversity of microclimate between various locations within the bounds of this appellation, a large number of grape varieties have found their perfect terroir here.
There are five distinct growing areas within the geographical confines of Zürich AOC, with producers from each sub-zone making wine under this label. Those closer to the lake and / or rivers experience the benefits of regulated temperatures with the reflective surface of the water providing additional heat to their vines, and the Föhn - a warm, dry wind from the south - also having effect by reducing the risk of frost for many of the plots. As is the case across much of geologically-diverse Switzerland, soil structure and composition varies considerably from vineyard to vineyard (limestone, shale and moraine are all represented), with even adjacent plots experiencing subtle differences in conditions.
Amongst the areas of particular note here are the appropriately named ‘Zurcher Weinland’ and the ‘Zürichsee’ - home of the rare Räuschling grape variety whose wines are a source of considerable pride amongst local producers.
The typical Zürich vineyard though comprises largely of the dominant Pinot Noir and Müller-Thurgau varieties, although other grapes are grown across the appellation in various quantities. Amongst these are red siblings Gamaret and Garanoir, crossings Regent and Cabernet Jura and white varieties Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and the fiercely aromatic Gewürztraminer.
Viticulture has been part of the landscape and the culture in this region for centuries and the introduction of the formal French-style AOC (appellation d’origine contrôlée) system in the nineteen-nineties has served to improve quality and enhance the reputation of Zürich wines on the international stage. Named one of the ‘Rookie’s of the Year’ by Gault & Millau and recipient of a number of high profile prizes in recent years, Mathias Bechtal of Bechtel-Weine in Eglisau (a small medieval town enveloped by vineyards) is one of a number of innovative young winemakers establishing a reputation for quality and sustainability in Zürich. And with a host of other producers following suit by coupling age-old tradition with new ideas and technology, it is an exciting time both for this appellation and for Swiss wine in general.