Story: Top-shelf wines, made in Ticino

Back to the Future with Ticino Wines

About 37 per cent of the wine from Ticino is grown in the region of Mendrisiotto. While the majority remains the classic Merlot, new and innovative wines are coming to the fore.

Wonderful Merlots have been produced in the southernmost region of Switzerland for more than a century. In recent years, a new generation of vintners have rediscovered heritage grape varieties and are now making wines with a new character.

THE CHARACTER

Carlo Crivelli, vine grower

Carlo Crivelli, vine grower
We’re borrowing from our own history and cultivating more heritage grape varieties again, such as Nebbiolo.

Mendrisiotto, in the southernmost part of Switzerland, features a mild climate and a landscape of gently rolling hills. Extending in a triangle toward Italy, its valley slopes are garlanded by dense rows of grapevines.

About 37 per cent of all Ticino wines grow in the area between the Melide dam and Chiasso. Numerous Ticino wine producers have their operations in the region. In the last several years, innovative vintners have been infusing the winemaking tradition of the region with fresh ideas.”

Together, Carlo Crivelli and Enrico Trapletti run Fumagalli Vini from a sleek new wine cellar. The building at Via Sotto Bisio 5 exemplifies the tastes of this new generation of vintners: a state-of-the-art wine cellar, solar panels on the roof, and an airy, modern interior.

Crivelli bubbles with enthusiasm, while Trapletti is methodical.

Their personalities couldn’t be more different, yet they find common ground in their passion for good wine.

Both were born into winemaking families and grew up among the vines.

Merlot, Gamaret, Nebbiolo, Carminoir, Chasselas, Chardonnay – I’ve cultivated over 50 different varieties of grape in my vineyards.

What makes for a good wine? It comes down to two things in the vintners’ view: “Terroir and attention to detail.” Mendrisiotto has the advantage of soil with the proper Ph and a southern exposure for the vineyards.

But that’s only half the equation. Being careful, precise and hands-on are the basic requirements for making a wine with character.

Balerna, barrels in the Fumagalli’s vine cellar
Pro tip
Admire the work of sculptor Vincenzo Vela in his eponymous museum, located in a feudal villa, and relax afterwards in the shade of the cypress trees in the museum’s adjoining park.
Colourful marble sourced from the quarry at Arzo was the height of fashion during the Baroque era, and was exported as far as Poland. Today the quarry is no longer active, but can still be explored.
The first Merlot was produced in 1906 in Ticino. It was the grape variety that proved most resilient in a number of experiments.

How did Ticino come to be famous for its Merlot? In the early 1900s, a vine disease outbreak in the region destroyed all the native grape varieties. Merlot met the need for a more resistant grape.

The name Merlot comes from the fact that the blackbird (“la merle” in French) is fond of the young grapes of this variety.

"These old grape varieties are the latest trend in wine – and opening up whole new worlds of flavour."

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Want to learn more about Ticino Merlot?

As put together by vintner Carlo Crivello, a tour from Mendrisiotto terroir offers the chance to go behind the scenes and get hands on with winemaking.

Activities include helping with the harvest, tasting the first samples in the wine cellar and getting a taste of the agricultural and cultural highlights of the region.

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