Markus Hungerbühler reviews Ellen Wallace’s new book on the hikes and wines of Switzerland, Wine Hiking Switzerland: Explore the Landscape of Swiss Wines.
It is not often that a book about Swiss wines is published in English as the original version and in French and German, both national languages of Switzerland, as translations. Our fellow member Ellen Wallace, a travel and wine writer (e.g. Vineglorious! Switzerland’s Wondrous World of Wines in 2014) who has lived in Switzerland for many years, has written a book in her mother tongue that combines the favourite Swiss pastime with visits to some of Switzerland’s best wineries: Wine Hiking Switzerland.
After an introduction to the author and the book, the volume explains in easy-to-understand language how to use it for any of the 50 hikes described in the book. The publisher, Helvetiq, provides many relevant links and useful tips on hiking in Switzerland, such as weather conditions, official maps from Swisstopo, access by public transport and taking dogs on the walks. It also offers a free downloadable GPX file on its website for each route described, which can then be linked to a map application on a smartphone. Ellen also provides some basic information about wine in Switzerland and wine in general. The wine-related aspects of the book are therefore aimed more at the wine novice than the wine geek.
For the main part of the book, Ellen has selected 50 artisanal wineries in the six wine regions of Switzerland to which an ‘easy’, ‘moderate’ or ‘difficult’ hike leads. Each entry in the book gives the name of the hike, the region, a map and some additional information about the hike, such as the starting and finishing point, i.e. the winery to be visited, the difficulty and duration of the hike and some interesting sights to see along the way. The entry describes in great detail the route to the winery, which is marked out in the landscape by the ubiquitous yellow signposts, making it almost impossible to get lost. It ends with a brief description of the winery and a particular wine produced there. Most of the walks are in the Valais, around Lake Geneva, in Ticino and in the Bündner Herrschaft in the Grisons, all famous areas with beautiful scenery and excellent wineries, while, for example, no walk is mentioned in the canton of Schaffhausen, north of Zurich, with its extensive Pinot Noir plantings on rolling hills.
The hikes are chosen so that the winery can be reached and/or left by public transport at the beginning/end of the walk. The use of public transport for walking is common in Switzerland, which hopefully does not limit the opportunity to buy wine at the winery visited. The selection of the 50 wineries shows Ellen’s great knowledge of Swiss wines and their producers. No doubt she can draw on her membership of the Mémoire des Vins Suisses (www.memoire.wine/fr/home/ or www.memoire.wine for the German version), an association that aims to promote the high quality of Swiss wine by storing bottles from selected producers for ageing and subsequently presenting these mature and aged wines at public tastings. The list of wineries ranges from larger and better known to very small and little known, and the wines selected represent the huge diversity of grapes grown and wine styles produced in Switzerland. Each entry is illustrated with photographs taken by Ellen Wallace during her 675km walk. The book concludes with her five favourite wineries and hikes, some statistics on hiking for this book, and acknowledgements to, among others, her therapist, who nursed her tendonitis during the writing of this book, and the Circle of Wine Writers, whose fellow members continue to teach her so much.
Using Wine Hiking Switzerland is indeed ‘the most active way to discover Swiss wines’. It is an excellent book to access wine in a leisurely and understandable way, lowering the threshold to understanding wine and combining wine with a leisure activity in nature where wine is grown. Published in three languages, Wine Hiking Switzerland offers an easy access to Swiss wines for locals and travellers to Switzerland, but also for people interested in Swiss wines and hiking in the beautiful landscapes of Switzerland.
Wine Hiking Switzerland by Ellen Wallace is available for purchase here: https://helvetiq.com/ch_en/wine-hiking-switzerland-explore-the-landscape-of-swiss-wines