By Lisa Rowlands

The canton of St. Gallen with its eponymous capital city, is renowned as a rural paradise with an abundance of natural beauty and a rich cultural heritage. It’s vineyards, which cover an area marginally in excess of two-hundred hectares, occupy sites in the Rhine valley (Rheintal), on the steep slopes of Lake Walen, between Rapperswil-Jona and Uznach (Lake Zürich), and tucked away in the north-western corner of the canton around the charming town of Wil. Many of the plots are situated on steep-slopes with southern aspects and excellent drainage; the largest concentration is around the town of Berneck (approx forty hectares) near to where the Rhine flows into Lake Constance.

What might appear at first glance to be somewhat harsh conditions for grape-growing, are in fact the opposite; intense alpine sunshine coupled with the temperature moderation of the Rhine and Lake Constance, and the warming effects of the Föhn wind, afford the vine parcels of St. Gallen a favourable climate. Soil depth and composition varies across the vineyards of the appellation giving the wines from each district - and each producer - a unique quality.

Red varieties occupy seven tenths of the vine here and comprise the same fraction of annual yield. The emblematic Pinot Noir - known as Blauburgunder - is by far the most prolific variety in St. Gallen’s vineyards and is increasingly vinified as a white wine as well as the more usual red and rosé. Accounting for more than half of the total vine, the premier grape is supported by Merlot, Diolinoir and Zweigelt - an Austrian variety which is rarely cultivated in Switzerland.