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Valais Wine

Valais is the largest wine region in Switzerland, and is responsible for almost half of the nation's total wine production. Located in the mountainous south-western corner of this small country, the main vineyard area of Valais runs east-north-east for 30 miles (50km) from Martigny to just beyond Sierre. Beyond this is a less densely planted section, which follows the valley due east between Leuk (Loeche in French) and Visp (Viege). Leuk lies on the dividing line between the French- and German-speaking parts of Switzerland, so this latter area of the Valais is subtly different from (and a touch more Germanic than) the more central and western areas.

In 2010, the Valais region was planted with just over 12,300 acres (5000ha) of vineyards, representing 40% of Switzerland's white vine plantings and fractionally less of its reds. It generated 25% more wine than the country's second-largest region (Vaud) and five times more than Italian-speaking Ticino

The Alpine vineyards of Valais

The vines here are owned and tended by an impressive number of independent vignerons – more than 20,000 – most of whom sell their grapes under contract or group together as co-operatives. A growing number of are now making and marketing their own wines, reflecting the forward-looking attitude of the Swiss wine trade and its increasingly commercial, export-driven focus.

Pinot Noir is king here and Valais-based plantings of the grape outnumber those of every other red variety in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. Switzerland's favorite white grape, Chasselas (Fendant), takes second place. Gamay holds its own and the Gamay hybrids Garanoir and Gamaret also make an appearance. Diolinoir and Cornalin are little-known red varieties rarely seen outside the Valais (even in the other Swiss regions they are relatively rare), while Humagne Rouge is now completely isolated in this ampelographer's haven. Both Marsanne and Syrah have climbed up the Rhone to the vineyards here, with Marsanne named Ermitage after its ancestral home, Hermitage.

The Valais terroir is one of the world's most dramatic, yet it remains largely unknown because of the low profile that Swiss wines have kept until recently. The valley benefits from its sheltered position below the high alpine peaks, with the most obvious bonus being the fohn wind, which keeps the area unusually warm and dry considering its altitude (most vines grow here at between 1500 and 2500ft/460–760m). The fohn effect is also enjoyed by Ticino, although there, mountain weather systems bring sporadic, heavy rainfall.

Vertiginous alpine topography also gives the vines in Valais the advantage of emphasized vineyard orientation and many are planted on steep gradients of up to 90% (42 degrees). This steepness, although making it markedly harder to manage and harvest the vines, brings the significant benefits of excellent drainage and increased exposure to sunlight. In one particular valley just south of Visp, the village of Visperterminen perches on the edge of some extremely steep, west-facing slopes. At around 4750ft (1150m) these are some of the highest vineyards in Europe, although they are topped by those located just the other side of the Matterhorn in the Aosta Valley.

Valais is home to about 125 appellations, the most prestigious of which (from west to east) are Fully, Conthey, Vetroz, Saint-Leonard and Salgesch. These are 'Grand Cru' areas, although this title is attributed locally, rather than nationally, which somewhat lessens its impact and regulation. Nonetheless, these communes – and the Valais as a whole – helped to pioneer Switzerland's developing export markets and its increasing recognition as a first-rate wine nation.

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Here are some wines produced in this region and all sub-regions, only the first 500 will be shown.
Wine Name
Robert Gilliard Sion Fendant Les Murettes, Valais, Switzerland Chasselas $20 14496
Robert Gilliard Sion Dole des Monts, Valais, Switzerland Gamay - Pinot Noir $21 34591
Salquenen Grand Cru, Valais, Switzerland Pinot Noir $26 41165
Provins Pierrafeu Fendant du Valais, Switzerland Chasselas $13 46866
Domaine du Mont d'Or Johannisberg du Valais, Switzerland Silvaner $23 50969
Jean-Rene Germanier Vetroz Fendant Les Terrasses, Valais, Switzerland Chasselas $15 52103
Jean-Rene Germanier Balavaud 'Bon Pere' William - Pear Liqueur, Valais, Switzerland Eaux-de-Vie $40 55330
Cave Caloz Bernune Cornalin Les Bernunes, Valais, Switzerland Cornalin $47 55680
Marie Therese Chappaz Grain Noble Marsanne Blanche, Fully, Switzerland Marsanne $117 57402
Domaine Denis Mercier Sierre Pinot Noir, Valais, Switzerland Pinot Noir $26 58509
Jean-Rene Germanier Syrah du Valais Cayas Reserve, Valais, Switzerland Syrah $43 60153
St. Jodern Kellerei Heida Visperterminen, Valais, Switzerland Savagnin $20 60556
Simon Maye & Fils Chamoson Pinot Noir, Valais, Switzerland Pinot Noir $23 61804
Marie-Therese Chappaz Grain d'Or Ermitage, Fully, Switzerland Marsanne $78 62212
Provins Domaine Tourbillon Ermitage Grains Nobles, Valais, Switzerland Marsanne $80 65343
Chanton Weine Resi, Valais, Switzerland Reze $47 66406
Les Fils de Charles Favre Favi Assemblage de Cepages Rouges, Valais, Switzerland N/A $16 66406
Antoine & Christophe Betrisey Fendant de Saint-Leonard, Valais, Switzerland Chasselas $18 66922
Giroud Vins Constellation Rouge Assemblage, Valais, Switzerland N/A $114 67881
Cave St-Michel Pinot Noir de Corin, Valais, Switzerland Pinot Noir $16 68948
Domaine de Beudon Fendant, Valais, Switzerland Chasselas $28 70027
Giroud Vins Petite Arvine de Chamoson, Valais, Switzerland Petite Arvine $21 70575
Jean-Rene Germanier Amigne de Vetroz Mitis Reserve, Valais, Switzerland Amigne $67 70575
Maurice Gay Fendant de Sion Les Mazots, Valais, Switzerland Chasselas $13 70575
Les Dailles Dole de Salquenen Pinot Noir, Valais, Switzerland Pinot Noir $13 71137
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