Valais is a canton and region in southern Switzerland and is that country’s largest wine region. Valais joined Switzerland in 1815. It’s home to the pyramid-shaped Matterhorn mountain, upscale Alpine resorts and upper Rhône River Valley vineyards. The resort town of Zermatt, at the foot of the Matterhorn, offers numerous ski slopes and hiking on old mule traders’ routes. It’s also a starting point for the scenic Glacier Express train. In the east is the huge Aletsch Glacier.

Capital: Sion.

Terroir: Valais ‘is an extension of the upper Rhône Valley with very steep south-facing schist vineyards,’ (Paolo Basso, 2017). The region is described by Dave Broom as a ‘sheer-sided glacial valley watered by the Rhône, the driest part of Switzerland [where] the mountains, the river and especially the foehn come into their own. The region’s centre is a 50 mile (80km) strip from Brig to Martigny which follows the Rhône flowing almost due east to west. The vines occupy very steep south-facing slopes.’

Climate: The region is known locally as ‘little California’ due to its warm, sunny, dry climate compared to the rest of Switzerland due to the natural barrier formed by the Alps to the north and south and the Foehn wind (Jamieson: 1994.)

Grape varieties: Chasselas (w). | Cornalin (r). | Dôle (r). | Humagne Rouge (r). | Merlot (r). | Johannisberg Sylvaner. | Syrah (r).

Soil: ‘Light, chalky or schistous (Jamieson: 1994.).


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Dave Broom, ‘Patriot Games,’ Wine Magazine, January 1997, p.46-8

Paolo Basso, Decanter World Wine Awards 2017 issue, p.282.

Sue Jamieson, ‘Conqering the Alps,’ Wine Magazine October 1994, p.24-25.