The Neuchatel winemaking region of Switzerland is located in the warm sunshine along the banks of Lake Neuchatel. The vines in this region are approximately a thousand years old and are used to produce Swiss wines that are serious and straightforward. The vineyards of Neuchatel are located against the Jura Mountain with excellent views of the surrounding Bernese Alps. They are wonderfully mirrored in the waters of Lake Neuchatel below. Neuchatel is well known for the growth of traditional grape varietals of Chasselas, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer, but in recent times local winemakers have begun to introduce new varietals such as Sauvignon Blanc, Doral, and Pinot Blanc.
The wine production region of the Neuchâtel area covers approximately 595 hectares of land. The wine region stretches along the sunny Lake Neuchâtel for 30 km. The vines of the Neuchatel region were planted 1000 years ago, and many say they reflect the nature of the Swiss – straightforward and serious while still being bon vivant and full of life. These ancient vineyards are planted against the slopes of the Jura Mountains overlooking the Bernese Alps. Their perfect reflection can be seen in the waters of Lake Neuchatel. The cultivation of vines in Neuchatel and wine production in this area began during the colonization of the region by the Romans. Despite this, during the fall of the Roman Empire and the advent of Christianity, it was the local monks who played a significant role in the development of viticulture in the area.
The location of the Neuchatel vines on the rolling hillsides provides them with a climate that is tempered by the waters of the lake. The lake ensures that the cold of the winter is less rigorous and minimizes the summer heatwaves. The surrounding Jura Mountains shelter the vines from the humid currents from the Atlantic Ocean. The aspect of the vines facing the east allows for ventilation and sunshine that is perfect for the production of high-quality wines, giving them the perfect roundness and finish.
The soils of the Neuchatel region are mainly Jurassic in origin. Across the region, the soils range from stony and light, to marly and heavy and to alluvial and deep. Despite this, the common factor is that they all contain limestone. Although the soils are low in humus, they are rich in mineral salts that contribute to producing excellent vintages.
In 2003, the canton of Neuchatel authorized nine grape varietals under the Appellation d’Origin Controlee (AOC). In order to maintain the high quality of the wines produced, the choice of grapes was limited to the old Chasselas, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Muller-Thurgau, Gewurztraminer and the newer varietals of Sauvignon Blanc, Doral and Pinot Blanc.
The Oeil-de-Pedrix wine of Neuchatel is made using Pinot Noir grapes and is considered to be the original wine of Neuchatel. This rose wine has the perfect pink colour and represents approximately a third of the wine production in the region. Many winemakers in different regions have attempted to imitate this wine but none have been able to match it. Oeil-de-Pedrix is made using only traditional winemaking techniques which give it its characteristic colour.
Neuchatel Pinot Noir wines are packed full of class and can be aged for several years. In making these wines, wine makers use only the most complex and intense vintages. The wine is aged in oak barrels which provides it with hints of vanilla.
The Chardonnay wines from Neuchatel are close to perfect thanks to the unique terroir of the region that it allows the grape to develop to its full potential. These wines are elegant and fruit with an acidity that makes it ideal for ageing. The ageing process takes place predominantly in oak barrels. Neuchatel Chardonnay pairs perfectly with fish, vegetables and desserts.
Pinot Gris grapes that are grown in Neuchatel produce wines that are generous, rich and unique to the region. In making Pinot Gris, the grapes are allowed to become over ripe before they are harvested. This allows for the production of wine that is full bodied and sweet. The Pinot Gris is golden in colour and is best enjoyed with salmon, mushrooms and desserts.
The Castle of Neuchatel – The Must-See Monument of Neuchatel
The Castle of Neuchatel is perfectly located on a hill overlooking the surrounding town and lake. It is considered an icon of Neuchatel and should not be missed by all who visit. The castle dates back to the 10th century and is a turreted structure that houses the Canton government. For visitors, guided tours through the castle are offered every day, giving guests access to the castle and allowing them to enjoy the incredible views of the city, rooftops, the lake, and the Alps. Guided tours are conducted in English, French, and German and include exclusive access to the castle prison tower.
The Prehistoric Pile Dwellings around the Alps – Journey Back to Prehistoric Times
The various prehistoric pile dwelling sites that are located around the Alps are officially listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. These sites are where one can view and learn about prehistoric remains of old lake villages. The remains are now largely submerged under the water of the lakes and are therefore mostly invisible. Despite this, one can learn more about these sites and see representations and images of them at the Latenium museum. In total there are 22 sites across the lakes of Neuchatel and evidence from all of them can be witnessed in the museum.
La Chaux-de-Fonds – The World Capital of Watch-making
La Chaux-de-Fonds is the birthplace of the famous architect Le Corbusier and also the world capital of the watch-making industry. This city became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2009 thanks to its unique chessboard design that was created in the 19th century after the town was destroyed by a catastrophic fire. La Chaux-de-Fonds sits at 1000 meters above sea level and is home to the famous Maison Blanche, the first house built by Le Corbusier for his parents. The town also houses the famous International Watch Museum that is entirely dedicated to the history of measuring time. The best time to visit La Chaux-de-Fonds is in the summer when the weather is less harsh. During this time the city is also perfect for walking, cycling, and relaxing in the beautiful outdoors.
Reset and Unwind at Lake Neuchatel
The beautiful Lake Neuchatel is located at the southern foot of the Jura Mountains. The northern shores of the lake are covered with vineyards while the southern shores have the largest marshland and birding area of Switzerland. This lake is the largest lake that is contained entirely within the borders of Switzerland. The best way to enjoy the lake and its beautiful scenery are by boat cruise. Many boats have an onboard restaurant, and these boat trips can be combined with hikes and cycling tours of the villages surrounding the lake. In the summer months, the lake becomes a hub for water sports including swimming, sailing, surfing and rowing. One of the most popular times to visit the lake is in the autumn when it hosts the biggest open-air wine festival in Switzerland and a flower parade.
The Beautiful Outdoors of Neuchatel
Neuchatel is one of the most scenic Alpine regions of Switzerland. Its exceptional natural beauty is thanks to the terraced vineyards overlooking the endless waters of Lake Neuchatel. This gem of Switzerland is the perfect destination for sunshine, fresh air and the best that the Alps have to offer.
Chaumont – The Towering Peak of Mount Chaumont
Mount Chaumont is the towering mountain peak overlooking Neuchatel. The mountain offers visitors a range of activities and the best views of the surrounding Three Lakes Region. For even better views, those who are brave enough can climb the panoramic tower which reaches to 1200 meters above sea level, providing views of the entire Swiss plateau and the distant Alps. The best way to access Chaumont is by funicular which takes 13 minutes from urban Neuchatel. At the upper funicular station families can enjoy the Adventure Park with play areas, goats and picnic tables. A little further on there is Topeka Ranch which offers horse and pony rides. Chaumont has something to offer every visitor and is the perfect destination for outdoor and nature lovers.
La Vue des Alpes – Experience the Most Unique View of the Alps
La Vue des Alpes is a famous pass in the Jura mountains that provides panoramic views of the Alps. It is considered by many to be the perfect viewpoint of these magnificent mountains. This lookout point is located at 1300m above sea level and is a popular Nordic skiing center. The snowcapped peaks can be enjoyed either by foot, on skis or on snowshoes. The various trails to enjoy are the Mont-Racine Trail, the Piste du Mont-Racine, the Vue des Alpes Tete de Ran and the La Vue des Alpes Mont D’Amin.
Jeunes-Rives Beach – The Beach in the Center of Neuchatel
Jeunes-Rives beach is a beach located in the heart of Neuchatel. The beach is situated in the middle of a vast, quiet and relaxing green space and is the perfect space for rest and rejuvenation. The area surrounding the beach is green and shaded by large trees. It is a pebble beach in walking distance from the city centre which makes it very easily accessible. The beach has excellent shower and toilet facilities as well as a restaurant and picnic facilities. For sport lovers, there is a beach volleyball pitch as well as a playground for young children.
What to Eat When Dining in Neuchatel
Neuchatel is the perfect location for food lovers to enjoy the local cuisine and experience the best of Swiss traditional food. The cuisine is characterized by cheese and meat but there is something to enjoy for everyone on the menus of the excellent local restaurants. The wonderful location and the delicious meals make Neuchatel the perfect location for a gastronomic experience.
Saucisson Neuchatelois – Traditional Neuchatel Sausages
Saucisson Neuchatelois is a swiss sausage that originated in Neuchatel. The sausage is made with a combination of both lean pork and bacon. Once mixed, the meat is seasoned with pepper, garlic and boiled pork rinds for additional flavour. The sausage mixture is stuffed into cow intestines, drained and hung to dry while being cold smoked. When it is ready, the smoked raw sausage is boiled and eaten with vegetables. An alternative preparation method is to wrap the sausage in parchment paper or newspaper and cook it over the embers of a fire.
Taillaule Neuchateloise – Raisin Bread of Neuchatel
Taillaule Neuchateloise is a soft and sugary raisin bread that is also known as Sonntagszopf. This raisin bread is a plaited loaf that was created by the people of Neuchatel. To make the bread, a mixture of flour, eggs, butter, lemon rind, and sultanas is made into a dough. The dough is then placed in a cake mold and cut with a pair of scissors into a zigzag shape. The best way to enjoy Taillaule Neuchateloise is warm with a generous slathering of butter on a lazy weekend morning.
Smoked Fera – Fresh Fish from the Swiss Lakes
Fera is a fish that is found in abundance in the lakes of Switzerland. The local people of Neuchatel enjoy eating Fera either cooked or smoked, similarly to salmon. The fish can be cooked in a frying pan or frilled in the oven. In some cases, immediately after the fish is caught it is smoked by the fishermen themselves. The secret in preparing the perfect Fera lies in the preparation of the brine in which the fish must marinate before being hung up and smoked. Fera can be bought in supermarkets and in all local restaurants in Neuchatel and is best enjoyed with a crisp glass of Chasselas as an appetizer.
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Soil: Jurassic origin soils, alluvial and limestone