By Lisa Rowlands

Divided in two by the Monte Ceneri pass, canton Ticino’s wines are reflective of the region’s unique topography and climate. As one of Switzerland’s most southerly provinces, average temperatures and the number of sunshine hours are higher than elsewhere in the country, and the well exposed, grassy slopes and diverse soils offer excellent conditions for a number of grape varieties. In particular, the moist, clay soils of southern Ticino are ideal for the cultivation of the cantonal flagship - Merlot.

This variety reigns supreme in Ticino, accounting for almost nine tenths of production and delivering distinguished wines of structural complexity and unique character. Prolonged maceration periods and barrel-ageing of twelve to eighteen months is common practice amongst producers of the region’s finest mono-varietal Merlots, and each example varies according to its specific micro-climate, soil composition and the vinification techniques employed. The same grape variety is also vinified white in the canton’s Bianco di Merlot - a rare and elegant wine that has proven popular locally as an accompaniment to seafood dishes.

Other permitted red grapes are Ancelotti, Bondola, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carminoir, Diolinoir, Gamaret, Garanoir and Pinot Noir. Whilst white wines can be produced as varietal or blend in any combination from Chasselas, Chardonnay, Doral, Kerner, Müller-Thurgau (Riesling-Sylvaner), Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon.