Ticino's top winemaker Christian Zündel once said that white grape varieties would actually suit Ticino very well. That sounds rather daring, since red is the dominant colour in viticulture on the southern side of the Alps. Nine-tenths of over 1,000 hectares of vineyards are planted with such varieties, mainly Merlot.
It was the Bordeaux grape that established the region's excellent reputation for viticulture. Little space remains for the white varieties. Chardonnay takes up a good 4% of the area, Sauvignon blanc just under 2%. In addition, exotic grapes such as Kerner and Viognier are cultivated in very small quantities. Then there's the production of the popular Bianco Merlot, a white wine made from a red variety of grapes.
Ticino's mild and sunny climate is predestined for red grapes. But the big problem in viticulture is the heavy rainfall, which has caused some negative surprises in the past. Whether white varieties cope better with this remains to be seen. But more and more wineries are getting involved with white wines. The Zündel family's winery in Malcantone, for example, is experimenting with Erbaluce, which comes from Piedmont. The fresh, delicate wine proves to be a success. Other examples from the southern canton also show potential. These include Vinattieri Bianco, a wine aged in barriques and made of Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc and Sémillon, but also Bianco Rovere from Brivio, a white Merlot aged in barriques. Castello di Morcote also produces different whites – one of them being Favola, a combination of five different varieties. The winery has created an excellent special bottling of Favola for Edition Peter Keller (available exclusively for CHF 29.50 on Mondovino.ch).
I am convinced that white wines have a promising future in Ticino. They will probably remain a niche product, but a niche that is worth paying attention to, with good prospects for extremely interesting discoveries.