Quality-wise, the third-largest winegrowing canton is on the up. Whilst Chasselas and Gamay produce easy-drinking everyday wines, specialities such as Sauvignon blanc, Gamaret and also sparkling wines are the new signature varieties in Geneva's viticulture.
After the Romans, who are believed to have planted the first vines in Geneva around 2,000 years ago, it was mainly aristocrats from the circle of the dukes of Burgundy who carried winegrowing forward. There are, for example, documents evidencing the gifting of vineyards by Burgundian Countess Eldegarde to the Priory of Satigny in the year 912. At the start of the 18th century, more than 2,000 hectares of land were devoted to winegrowing in Geneva. Towards the end of the 19th century, when Geneva became better-connected to the French wine regions via the railway network, the importance of domestic winegrowing diminished. After years of overproduction in the early 1980s, 1988 brought a renaissance in quality, when Geneva became the first Swiss canton to introduce an AOC regulation.
The vineyards surrounding the city of Geneva like a string of pearls are divided into three sub-regions. The “Rive droite” (785 hectares) is the main growing area, with Satigny at its centre. Former glacial moraines and the alluvial soils of the Rhône characterize the terroir. The flat land to the west of the city centre is known as “Entre Arve et Rhône” (273 hectares), and is dominated by moraine soils with a high proportion of lime and gravel. The third sub-region “Entre Arve et Lac” (239 hectares) nestles between the city and Hermance, from which point the shore of the lake lies on French territory. Here, medium-heavy moraine soils dominate.
Under the influence of the mild lake climate, with 1,800 hours of sunshine per year and an annual average of 820 millimetres of rain per square metre (a low figure by Swiss standards), growing conditions are good for the grapes.
Light Chasselas wines aged in steel tanks and fresh, fruity Gamay are the most important wines in terms of volume. In terms of prestige, Geneva’s vintners really shine with specialities such as Sauvignon blanc, Viognier and, above all, new Swiss variety Gamaret, as well as very good sparkling wines.
Chasselas, Gamay, Pinot noir, Chardonnay and Gamaret as well as 15 other varieties, including Viognier, Aligoté or Cabernet Franc.