The wines of the Wallis (Valais in French) are some of Switzerland's best. The climate of this region is unique and varied, with the famous ski resorts of Zermatt, Verbier and Saas Fee receiving hefty precipitation, while towns like Brig, Sion, and Sierre, deep in the Rhône Valley, have hot summers and a dry terroir. This climate favours wine production and here they make the most of any canton in the country. Although they mainly produce Pinot Noir, Chasselas, and Gamay grapes, there are a number of grape varieties and blends that are unique to the Wallis.
Amigne is a historic white wine grape from the region, which was likely already introduced by the Romans. Three quarters of the world's Amigne production comes from the Wallis, particularly in the town of Vétroz. The grapes produce wines that are citrusy and light with a nice sweetness.
Perfect for: dessert, melons, chicken, paté, or easy drinking on a warm summer day.
Arvine, or Petite Arvine as it is most commonly called, is an ancient grape variety unique to the Wallis that has been traced back to 1602. It produces the best regarded white wine from the region, and is generally of an extremely high quality. It is a delicious and fruity wine with little bitterness and a light citrusy taste.
Perfect for: fondue and raclette, cheese, Walliserteller, fish and seafood, or any time really...
Cornalin, or Cornalin du Valais, is a red grape variety. Its offspring is the Humagne Rouge (not related to the Humagne Blanc), another great Walliser red. It is a sensitive grape that requires a great deal of attention, and in the middle of the twentieth century it almost disappeared from production. Fortunately, it has been resurrected, and now stands as the centrepiece of the Walliser red wines. This is a fruity, bright wine that mellows with age.
Perfect for: meats and sausages, rich stews, and Wild.
Dôle is a blended wine made from 85% Pinot Noir and Gamay grapes. The rest is a mix of other Walliser grapes, such as Syrah, Humagne Rouge, or Cornalin, which add additional structure, colour and flavour. It varies greatly, depending on the terroir and vintner, but is usually a fine, aromatic wine.
Perfect for: roasted meats, dried meats, cheese.
Otherwise known as Chasselas, Fendant is the second most planted grape variety in Switzerland. It is not unique to the region, but extremely popular. It makes a light, crisp wine, occasionally sparkling, which is very easy drinking.
Perfect with: cheese, or at an Apéro.
Although it has now been widely discredited, it was thought at one time that the Humagne Blanc was extremely rich in iron, and mothers who had just given birth were encouraged to drink it. Regardless, this ancient grape variety produces another citrusy, easy drinking Walliser white wine.
Perfect for: cheese dishes, seafood and fish, dried meats.
Unfortunately Switzerland only exports about 2% of their wine, mostly to Germany, and the other 98% is consumed domestically. However, if you get the chance to drink Swiss wine, I promise it will not disappoint. Santé!
And for a great dessert with Walliser Wine, why not try this recipe for Sii.