Originally from the Mâconnais region of Burgundy in France, Chasselas is the most cultivated grape in Switzerland. As a fresh, light wine, it makes an ideal apéritif. The wine goes well with fresh-water fish, cheese dishes, and poultry. It can also accompany frogs’ legs, shrimp and salt-water fish such as red mullet.
More aromatic than Chasselas, Aligoté is also from Burgundy.The wine marries well with fish and seafood, as well as mushroom dishes.
One of the great Burgundy grapes, Chardonnay yields an aromatic wine ideally suited to spicy foods.
A white member of the Pinot family, Pinot Blanc is a subtly aromatic wine that makes an excellent apéritif but is also good with fish, and cheese dishes like raclette and fondue.
Called Ruländer in Germany and Malvoisie in Valais, this Pinot Noir mutation was formerly known as Tokay in Alsace – a name that now may only be used for Hungarian wines made from the white Furmint grape. Geneva Pinot Gris is rich, structured and fruity, with notes of quince, and tastes good with fish and seafood – but try it with foie gras!
This German variety was known for a long time as Riesling Sylvaner. The grape makes elegant, light wine. Its agreeable aromas of Muscat and light acidity marry well with blue trout, sauerkraut and seafood.
A cross of Riesling and Bukettrebe grapes, Scheurebe is a hardy dry white with an assertive bouquet – a great bet with spicy dishes.
A cross between Riesling and the red Trollinger grape. Fruity and spicy, the wine goes well with both fresh and smoked salmon.
An Austro-German hybrid with similarities to Müller-Thurgau, the name of this grape means foundling in German. Only 43 hectares of the variety are cultivated worldwide, making it something of a rarity. Two Geneva wineries produce full-bodied Findling, ideal to drink with oysters and seafood.
From Alsace via Südtirol, Gewürztraminer is related to the Savagnin grape cultivated in Jura and the Heida grown in Valais. In Geneva it is generally vinified into good dry white that works well with spicy curries and strong cheeses (Munster, Roquefort, fresh goat cheese). Some wineries make a late harvest wine that is excellent with desserts, particularly chocolate. These are rich wines, with subtle rose and litchi notes.
Originally from the south, Muscat is another grape that has acclimatized particularly well to Geneva soil. Vinified very dry, this low-acidity, very aromatic white goes well with Gruyère cheese. As a sweet wine, it is equally good as an apéritif, with dessert or with blue cheese such as Bresse and Roquefort.
Sauvignon has been cultivated for several centuries in the Loire and Graves regions of France. The grape has acclimatized particularly well to Geneva soil, especially in Satigny and Dardagny. With high but delicate acidity levels and a citrus-y character sometimes tinged with notes of passion fruit or black currant, Sauvignon is ideal with goat cheeses.
New to Geneva, the Viognier grape has long been cultivated in the terraced vineyards of Condrieu (Côtes du Rhône) in France. The wine – fine and complex, with aromas of honey, flowers and fruit like mango and apricot – goes particularly well with duck.
Geneva’s best-known red wine is made from this variety. Originally from Beaujolais, the grape was grown by the Celts before the arrival of the Romans. Often fruity and low in tannins, Gamay wine can also be structured with aromas of red fruit and spices. Ideal with poultry, it is good as well with rabbit and pigeon, and cold meat such as pork charcuterie and sausage, or terrines and patés. Also delicious with strawberries.
Pinot Noir is probably the oldest grape variety cultivated outside the Mediterranean region. Originally from Burgundy, it has long been grown in Geneva, and yields distinguished, fine and classy wines with fruity notes of raspberry and blackberry that lend themselves well to oak-aging. Pinot Noir is good with red meat, game and duck, but is also worth trying with local fresh-water fish such as ‘omble chevalier’ (char) or ‘sandre’, a perch-like fish.
Originally from Bordeaux and a relative newcomer to Geneva, the Cabernet Sauvignon grape yields red, tannin-rich, full-bodied, structured wines that age well and are particular favorites of the Genevois.
An accidental arrival from Bordeaux, in Switzerland the Merlot grape responds to Geneva’s soil almost as well as it does to that of the Swiss-Italian canton of Ticino. More supple than Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot wine is round and fruity with notes of currant. Generally oak-aged, this wine keeps well. Serve with meat – it is particularly good with roast lamb and rosemary – chicken in sauces, and some cheeses.
Among the newest varieties planted in Geneva, Gamaret and Garanoir, both crosses of Gamay and Reichensteiner, yield well-balanced reds rich in color and tannins, with notes of black fruit and pepper, that age relatively well.
First attempts at making rosés from these grapes bode well. Gamay rosés and the Pinot Noir rosés known as L’Oeil de Perdrix are increasingly consumed in Geneva. Like red wines, Geneva rosés are macerated but less intensively.
Other grape varieties are grown in Geneva, such as the white Altesse grape (called Roussette in Savoy) or reds like the Cornalin from Valais or Syrah from Côtes-du-Rhône in France. White and rosé sparkling wines are also produced in Geneva.