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Graubünden

Located in the far east of Switzerland, bordering Liechtenstein and Austria, Graubünden is a relatively minor region in terms of quantity, but significant in the market due to the fame of several of its top winemakers.

  • It is the only canton of Switzerland with three official languages: German (54%), Romansh (31%), and Italian (15%).

  • The region is where Swiss author Johanna Spyri found the inspiration for her world-famous novel, Heidi, in 1880.

  • The oldest recorded wine estate in Europe is found here.

  • Graubünden boasts the Alps’ highest ski resorts. There are 2,200 km of ski pistes in the canton.

  • The first public pool, Therme Vals, was created by Peter Zumthor using 60,000 slabs of local quartzite and is fed by a thermal spring.

  • Tamina Gorge is so narrow it is only penetrated by a few rays of sunshine at mid-day. In the town of Bad Ragaz situated in the gorge you will find Old Bad Pfäfers, which stays at a constant 36.5°C and since mediaeval times, has been famed for its healing properties.

The foehn wind gives headaches and great wines.

By far the most important of these is the Bündner Herrschaft, just south of Liechtenstein, whose vineyards are located in the communes of Maienfeld, Jenins, Malans and Fläsch.

At altitudes of between 500-600 metres, these rank amongst the best vineyards in eastern Switzerland, enjoying a beneficial climate resulting from excellent southern exposure, protection from northerly winds offered by the Rätikon Mountains and the warm föhn winds from the south. Autumns here are long and there is very little frost.

The Bündner Herrschaft is also a particularly beautiful region with picture-postcard mediaeval villages and dramatic mountain scenery with a backdrop of steeply terraced vineyards leading down to flatter land on which are grown other crops including maize and asparagus.

Rhine wines are typically thought of as being from the famous German wine regions such as Baden, Rheinessen and Rheingau, but the river flows past the Graubünden vineyards long before it reaches the slopes of these better-known regions.

The better soils in the area are a mixture of schist and gneiss, loosely structured and warmed by the bright mountain sunshine. The vineyards are mostly planted on the right bank of the Rhine River as this offers a westerly aspect and more manageable slopes.

Graübunden vineyards are mainly planted with Pinot Noir and Muller Thurgau (often named Riesling x Sylvaner).

The predominant grape variety grown in the Bündner Herrschaft is Pinot Noir, which makes wine in a range of styles from soft and fruity through to powerful oak-aged examples, all with distinct regional character. Tiny amounts of Syrah are also grown.

A variety of excellent whites are made and of particular note are the Pinot Blanc (Weissburgunder), Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc.

There are unique native varieties such as the Completer.

Other varieties include Syrah, Merlot, Diolinoir and Gamaret for reds. Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc (Weissburgunder) and Pinot Gris for whites.

Traditional Romansh foods include Rösti, Capuns and Pizokel.

Rösti was once the traditional farm breakfast across Switzerland - now a trendy food worldwide.

Capuns. Predominately made in the western part of Grisons are made from Spätzle dough with pieces of dried meat and rolled in a chard leaf. They are boiled in a gravy of bouillon, milk and water, then served covered with grated cheese.

Pizokel. Are buckwheat pasta eaten in a wide variety of ways including with cabbage. In some places when eaten by themselves, they are known in Rumantsch as bizochels bluts, or bald pizokel.

If someone leaves a small amount of any kind of food on the serving dish this is called ‘far sco quel dal bizoccal’, meaning more or less ‘leaving the last pizokel’.

Prättigau Chnödli are(dumplings) with mashed potatoes.

Chäs-Gatschäder. Bread, milk and cheese pancakes.

Birnenbrot. Spicy and rich peasant's pear and nut bread.

Älplermageronen. Mountain hut and winter farming dish. A slow cooked dish of pasta, diced potatoes, cream and cheese. The finished dish is sprinkled with fried onions and traditionally served with a side dish of apple sauce.

Engadin Walnut Tart. This tart made of caramelised walnuts does not originally come from Graubünden. It was brought here by local pastry cooks coming back from Italy where walnut are grown. Today it is frequently bought to take home from Graubünden.

Bündnerfleisch. (Graubünden meat) comes in strips about 35cm long. Meat taken from beef and game is cured and slow dried up on the Alp and thinly shaved by hand. Delicious and near impossible to get in the UK unless you get a Swiss to bring you some back.

Puschlaver Pizzoccheri. The basic ingredient of Pizzoccheri, buckwheat, is imported. In earlier times buckwheat was cultivated all over the Poschiavo region and toiday it is starting to regrow its own. This dish uses buckwheat noodles (Pizzoccheri), white cabbage, carrots and potatoes.

Chalandamarz. (Engadine) Ringing bells and snapping whips ring around the upper and lower Engadine as well as some other areas. It is designed to banish the winter demons and takes place on 1 March.

L’Hom Strom. The burning of straw men - again to cast out the winter.

Pschuuri. (Splügen) The Pschuuri festival, elsewhere known as Ash Wednesday, sees unmarried women and youngsters blackened with soot.

Schlitteda Engiadinaisa. (Upper Engadine) A festival of traditional costumes and sleigh rides.

Barchinas. (Scuol) The launching of little hand-made candlelit boats.

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