Geneva is the third-largest wine-producing region in Switzerland. The wines have Geneva have carried the AOC since 1988 and include a wide range of high-quality wine types ranging from Gewürztraminer to Cabernet Sauvignon. The history of viticulture in Geneva stretches back to Roman times and its perfectly preserved locations as well as a natural setting make it one of the world’s most breath-taking winemaking regions. The winemaking area of Geneva is nestled between the ridges of the Jura and Saleva mountain escarpments with the vineyards planted across the rolling hillsides.
The Geneva wine region of Switzerland has 1400 ha of land currently under the vine. It is the third-largest winemaking region of Switzerland and is perfectly located between the Saleva and Jura mountain escarpments.
The tradition of winemaking in Geneva dates back over 1000 years. Currently, the region produces more than 13.5 million liters of wine per year, which contributes 10% to the total volume of the wine of the area. White wine grape varietals cover 616 ha of land while red wine varietals cover 794 ha of land.
The Soils of Geneva is divided into three very different types. The first terroir is the Right Store which covers 790 ha of land and includes the Mandement and Stingy. From here it stretches further east to the vineyards of Celigny and Collex-Bossy where the soil gives the grapes a particular power and distinct flavour to the wines they produce. The second terroir is located between Arve and Rhone and covers 270 ha. This terroir is situated between two rivers and includes the vineyards of Bemex, Lully, Confignon, Soral, and Laconnex. The soil here has been formed by the erosion of the nearby Mont Blanc and consists mainly of limestone and gravel which gives the grapes a particular elegance and finess. The third and final terroir is found in the region between Lac and Arve and covers 283 ha of land. This region stretches from Cologny to Hermance onto the hills of Meinier, Choulex, and Jussy. The location on the hilltops provides panoramic views of the sunny exposed slopes.
The climate in Geneva is strongly influenced by the surrounding mountains of the Jura and the Alps. This climate provides perfect conditions for wine production. The slopes of the wine region located near Lake Geneva are not very sensitive to the frost during the Sping and the hills provide excellent exposure to the sun.
The Sub-areas of Geneva
The grape varietals of Geneva all form part of the Appellation d’Origine Controlee Geneva (AOC). The various AOC premier cru are Côtes de Landecy, Coteau de Lully, Choulex hillside, Collex Castle, Bossy hillside, Hillside of the White Vine, Slopes of Dardagny, Slope of Genthod, Château du Crest, Jussy’s mandate, Grand Carraz, Domaine de l’Abbaye, Russin ribs, Coteau des Baillets, Bourdigny hillside, Coteau de Choully, Coteau de Peissy, Coteaux de Peney, Choully Castle, Rougemont and The Leaf.
The wines of Geneva are well respected for their richness and unique flavours.
Geneva rosé wines are made using the direct pressing method. This method allows the elements of the film to provide a richness in the must. The wines have an intense colour and is well structured with wonderful aromas. The fermentation of this wine takes place mostly in vats.
The red wine of Geneva is made using malolactic fermentation that takes place during vinification. The type of wine that the winemaker desire will determine whether the maturing will take place either in stainless steel vats or in oak barrels. The maturation process in the oak barrels takes between 10 and 12 months. During this time the wood enriches the wine and gives it a wonderful aroma and structure. It also allows the tannins in the wine to round. When the aging process is complete, the wines from different vats and barrels are blended, filtered, and finally bottled. The most famous red varietal of Geneva is the Gamay. This varietal is fruity and not very tannic. It is used to produce well-structured red wines that have aromas of spices and red fruits.
Of the white wines of Geneva, the most popular is by far the Chardonnay. The Chardonnay originally comes from the Maconnais region. Although Chardonnay is the most widely grown grape in Switzerland, its vinification is very challenging. Geneva chardonnays are fresh and light and pair excellently with cheeses and seafood. Aligote is another white wine from Geneva that is full-bodied with a perfect level of acidity. It pairs well with mushrooms and fresh seafood. The Pinot Blanc is a mutation of the Pinot family and is finely aromatic.
Sparkling wines from the Geneva region are vinified using the traditional method. The fermentation of the wine takes place in either stainless steel vats or oak barrels where the wine is aged on its lees, in the bottle for between 12 and 36 months. This is also referred to as aging on slats. The foam of the sparkling wine is produced in the bottle after the expedition liqueur is added.
When visiting Geneva, the Chateau de Chillon is a fairytale location that cannot be missed. From the Montreux waterfront, one follows the Chemin Fleuri or Floral Path. This path is a promenade that is lined with beautifully coloured flower beds that extends and winds for 4 kilometers. The path ends where it meets the beautiful stone Chateau de Chillon on the banks of Lake Geneva. The Chateau de Chillon itself is a 13th century oval shaped fortress made up of a maze of courtyards, armour filled halls, towers, artwork and period furniture. The land facing side of the castle is heavily fortified but the lake facing side is open and had a much gentler façade. The Chateau de Chillon is well known for featuring in Byron’s The Prisoner of Chillon. Chateau de Chillon is open to visitors daily and the last entry is permitted one hour before closing.
The Old Town of Geneva – Explore Geneva off the Tourist Track
Although not regularly frequented by tourists, the old town of Geneva is the largest historical site in Switzerland. The old town area is dominated by St. Peter’s Cathedral which is known to many as the Mecca of the reformation. This wonderful part of Geneva is the perfect place to lose oneself and spend hours wandering the narrow winding streets and charming terraces where there is a new surprise around each corner. There are a number of historical treasures in the town, set in the most beautiful green surroundings. Another wonderful site to visit in the Old Town is the Wall of the Reformers which is a monumental homage to the important figures of history who turned Geneva into the ‘Rome for Protestants’.
The Bains District – Experience The Art, Culture and Nightlife of Geneva
The Bains District is the home of art, culture, and nightlife in the town of Geneva. The district is centered around the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MAMCO) and numerous other galleries that host some of the best art exhibitions in the country. Not only in Switzerland but across Europe, the Bains District is considered a platform for modern art. Along with the many galleries and venues hosting exhibitions, the Bains District has many hip and busting bistros and bars that give it a buzzing nightlife and evening scene. If you are lucky enough to visit the district, try to plan the visit around the Vernissages Communs communal openings that take place three times a year.
Relax at the Point de la Jonction
The Point de la Jonction is a beautiful, tranquil and relaxing green area of Geneva where the locals gather during the hot summer. At the point there are deck chairs to lounge on and a bar that provides the perfect escape from the packed tourist attractions and busy city. The Point is not only a relaxation spot, but loss a fascinating landmark where the Geneva, Rhone and Arve rivers meet creating a hypnotizing two toned river. On the left of the Point there is a swimming area with outdoor showers to make use of before enjoying a drink at the bar.
The Magical and Mystical Outdoors of Geneva
The magical and beautiful natural environment of Geneva has meant that it has come to be known as a place of peace and nature. Perhaps the most famous natural icon of Geneva is the imposing Mont Blanc but along with this, the region has plenty to offer nature and outdoor travelers looking for relaxation or adventure.
Rochers de Naye – The Incredible Rocks of Naye
The Rochers de Naye are the rocks that form a particular mountain that is part of the Swiss Alps overlooking Lake Geneva. Local legend has it that Father Christmas himself resides on this mountain peak. The peak of the Rochers de Naye sits at 2024 meters above sea level, making it the perfect place to enjoy hiking and climbing and to experience the most breathtaking views over Geneva and its lake. The best way to access the mountain peak is by the railway which operates throughout the year. Attractions to visit at Rochers de Naye include the alpine garden, the marmot colonies, and the climbing park, and the caves. To recharge and relax, enjoy a drink and a meal at the Plein Roc panoramic restaurant built into the rockface and offering upscale cuisine.
Mont Saleve – The Haven of Tranquility
Mount Saleve is a beautiful and accessible mountain peak located just outside of Geneva. To get to the mountain one can take a bus from Geneva and then enjoy a 5-minute cable car ride to the top. Once at the peak of the mountain one can enjoy the most spectacular views of Geneva and its surrounding areas. For outdoor and sport lovers, Mont Saleve is the perfect location as it offers hiking, walking, paragliding, mountain biking and cross-country skiing in the winter months.
The Route from Cornavin to Satigny – Take the Less Travelled Road into Nature
One of the best ways to experience the natural beauty of Geneva is to enjoy a bike ride around Geneva from Cornavin to Satigny. This scenic route begins in Geneva and winds its way out of the town through the sycamore forests, parklands and wooded landscapes. From there the route continues to the wine growing regions of Geneva located at the foot of the Mount Jura. The total distance of the route is 12km, of which the entire way is on a tarred road. The route is suitable for even the most inexperienced of cyclists and is the perfect way to escape the city and unwind.
Geneva is heaven for food lovers as it is a place where one can find cuisines from around the globe in some of the best restaurants in the world. Despite this, the most famous ingredient in Geneva is cheese and it is used as the base for many incredible local dishes. Pair this with local wine and enjoy a gastronomic experience that beats all others.
Café de Paris Sauce – The Distinct Sauce of Geneva
Café de Paris sauce is a sauce that first became popular in the 1940s at a local restaurant in Geneva called Café de Paris. The sauce is made of a number of ingredients including ketchup, butter, Dijon mustard, shallots, capers, parsley, chives, rosemary, garlic, marjoram, thyme, dill, chicken livers, anchovies, brandy, curry powder, paprika, orange zest, lemon, cayenne powder and salt. Traditionally the sauce is enjoyed with beef steak. The exact recipe is still a closely guarded secret so the best way to experience the sauce is to have a meal at the Café de Paris.
Fondue – The National dish of Switzerland
Fondue is considered the national dish of Switzerland. It is made of a melting pot of flavours and delicious smells. The name fondue comes from the French word fondre, meaning melt. The key ingredient in a fondue is cheese. The cheese is melted over a fire and flavoured with ingredients such as brandy, white wine, or nutmeg. The original fondue recipe was invented with the alpine people and farmers had only cheese, wine, and bread to eat during the winter months. During this time, they melted the cheese with wine and dipped their bread into it. No trip to Geneva would be complete without a warm fondue made with the excellent local white wines.
Longeole – Traditional Genevan Sausage
Longeole is a sausage that originated in Geneva. The sausage is made of minced pork, ground pork rinds and fennel seeds. The reason for the use of pork rinds is that it prevents the sausage from drying out and adds flavour. Longeole takes longer to cook than other Swiss sausages because of the addition of the pork rinds. This dish is usually enjoyed in the cold winter months and is normally served with potatoes cooked in white wine.