GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Swiss cantons are becoming increasingly organized and coordinating their work for the cantonal wineries’ open house days. The same basic tips apply for visiting all of them:
Your starting point should be the GenevaLunch news story on the event (search name of canton + wineries open house). The open houses are designed to make it easier for the public to meet the country’s wines and the people behind them. It’s a great way to learn about Switzerland’s often excellent local wines while seeing some of the world’s most beautiful scenery. I try to make suggestions for types of wineries you might want to visit, from ones with great views to ones with sublime wines.
You’ll get the most out of the visits if a) you spit out the wine after you’ve tasted it, in the small buckets provided for this and b) you ask questions, without worrying that you sound like you know nothing.
How to decide what wineries to visit, how to get there
Select the village(s) you want to visit, based on how you’re planning to get around. The advantage of having a car is that you can buy and pack bottles in the car as you go. The disadvantage is that even if you spit out the wine most of the time, strongly recommended, you have to be careful about the amount you consume: Switzerland’s legal limit is 0.5, the equivalent of one small glass of wine (please note that it was recently incorrectly reported on a radio programme to be 0.8).
Most wineries will ship to you, with next-day service via the post office. This means that if you’re using one of the shuttle options you can carry home that one bottle you think you must have for dinner and leave the rest to show up later in the post. Wineries’ policies vary, but the shipping cost is not high and if you buy more than 6 or 12 the postage is often free or discounted.
Check for CFF Railaway offers . In Vaud, for example: 20 percent off to get there and back, another 20 percent off on the Mobilis regional public transport system and 20 percent off for the CHF15 “passport” glass that gets you in to all the wineries.
The tasting process, from white to red as a general rule
A good general rule is to start with whites and move on to reds. So how do you do this when you’re visiting several wineries? My approach is to select, for example, three wineries whose white wines I particularly want to try, then six whose reds interest me. I allow 30-45 minutes per winery, which gives me a chance to taste the wines, ask other visitors what they like and why, talk to the owners – and relax a bit. This means that I can realistically fit in three in a morning, take time out for lunch and do another three in the afternoon. Or two, lunch and four post-lunch.
Village restaurants are one option for lunch, with several offering special Open days menus, and several of the wineries offer meals. Keep in mind that many of the wineries also offer excellent snacks, so some people simply snack their way through the day!
The fun of these open days lies in exploring and visiting new places, so be adventurous. You won’t always find wines that are magical, but you’ll learn while looking for them and there are enough world-class wines from Switzerland for you to easily find some real treasures.