With a diverse landscape and rich cultural heritage, this fascinating slice of Switzerland offers plenty for the tourist and local alike. From hiking the high peaks of the Jura mountains to strolling along the beautiful lakeside promenades; from marvelling at the architectural splendour of the old towns to relaxing in one of the quaint, picturesque villages that are strewn like wild flowers across the lush green countryside. This region awakens the senses - its patchwork landscape brims with striking colour, the sounds of nature are never far away and the tastebuds are tantalised by freshly caught fish from the lakes, delicious local cheeses such as Bleuchâtel, and the region’s delectable - if little known - wines.
A mystery to many, the Three Lakes wine region covers an area of nearly one thousand hectares in the cantons of Bern, Fribourg and Neuchâtel, with the parcels of vine that line the northern bank of Lake Neuchâtel accounting for roughly 60% of the region’s production. Stretching from Cressier in the north to Vaumarcus in the south, these vineyards benefit from a gentle sloping terrain, the temperature moderation of the nearby lakes and a generally sunny aspect. Site selection is an important issue here, since the region does not receive the almost guaranteed sunshine of Ticino or Valais, nor the high temperatures of more southerly canton Geneva. Subsequently there are fewer vineyards on the southern side of the lake, and those that have emerged - around the town of Cheyres - occupy carefully chosen, well-angled plots to ensure optimum growing conditions.
Reflecting the picture across much of Switzerland, red varieties outnumber whites in this region, with around 56% of the area under vine planted with the former. Non-surprisingly, Pinot Noir - the only permitted red grape in both Bern and Neuchâtel - dominates, producing excellent, silky-smooth reds as well as being a key constituent of Œil-de-Perdrix. Smaller areas of Gamaret and Garanoir complete the red contingent here, albeit accounting for less than 5% of production.
Chasselas - a notable conduit of terroir - is the most widely planted white grape, with its varietal wines reflecting the subtle differences in soils between vineyards. The region also produces some refreshing, elegant wines from the Chardonnay and Malvoisie (Pinot Gris) varieties along with its pink speciality that translates into English as ‘Eye of the Partridge’.
With a wealth of treasures awaiting discovery, this little known region of Switzerland is quietly building a reputation for producing high quality wines.