Introduction

By Lisa Rowlands

Switzerland’s Italian speaking region offers breathtaking natural landscapes, picturesque mountain villages and more hours of sunshine than anywhere else in the country. But the wild, wooded peaks and palm-fringed mirror lakes of Ticino (Tessin) only scrape the surface of this fascinating finger of southern Switzerland; a rich history, vibrant cultural scene and the singular sense of sophistication that runs through the canton’s capillaries, make this region a magnet for tourists, art lovers and connoisseurs of fine food and wine.

Geographically, the region is divided in two by the Monte Ceneri pass. The upper part of the canton - including the northern tip of Lake Maggiore, the river valley from which the canton takes its name and the capital city Bellinzona whose three medieval castles dominate the skyline, is known as sopraceneri (sopra being the Italian word for over). Whilst the lower part - a smaller area to the south encompassing the lakeside city of Lugano with its distinct Swiss-Mediterranean style, is referred to as sottoceneri (under…).

The climate of both parts is largely influenced by the sea and subsequently provides the winemakers of this region with a set of growing conditions distinct from those elsewhere in the country. Having a more southerly latitude, average temperatures in Ticino are higher than those in other parts of Switzerland and rainfall is plentiful, particularly in the summer and autumn months. Soil acidity and composition varies across the canton - with the south generally being more alkaline than the north, and the alpine topography of glacial lakes and mountains creates subtle changes in microclimate which affect the terroir in different locations. This dramatic landscape also dictates that the region’s vineyards are scattered across the canton in areas where terrain permits. Most are independent, small parcels whose owners often vinify their harvests collectively or sell on their yield to larger companies.

Appellations of Ticino