Ticino is a relatively small wine region in the alpine south of Switzerland, prized for its Merlot, and located along its border with Italy. The wine region's borders follow those of the canton of Ticino, a primarily Italian-speaking enclave in the landlocked multilingual country (the canton is called "Tessin" by the French and German speakers).
Vineyards in region cover just over 1,100 hectares (2,700 acres) and are centred around the rivers and large, alpine lakes of the canton. The latter are a major tourist attraction - much like the lake of Como, just 5km (3 miles) from Ticino's southernmost tip - and they all share water with Italy.
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It makes up just over 80 percent of the entire vineyard area and has been so successful, it has been given its own appellation: Merlot del Ticino. This can be relatively light or – when from the warmer, sunnier vineyards and carefully vinified with oak – as fine and well structured as good red Bordeaux.
Other varieties include Chardonnay (4 percent) and Sauvignon Blanc (1.7 percent). In total, white wines only represent nine percent of the regional output.
In climatic terms, Ticino stands out somwhat from other Swiss wine regions thanks to its topography, altitude and latitude. As is fitting for the most-southerly region, it has some of the hottest average summer temperatures - although the neighbouring Valais to the west also can also have periods when the daytime temperature rises as high as 35 celsius (95F).
It is still possible to find vines trained in the pergola style - a feature sometimes seen in the dramatic vineyards of the upper Aosta Valley, Rias Baixas and some vineyards of Sicily. This system, in which vines are trained overhead on wooden frames, is comparatively uneconomical – the structure typically being too low to allow vineyard machinery to pass beneath it.
The more-modern cordon and guyot training systems are gradually becoming the norm here. In some sections, normally on the steeper sites, vines may be staked "en gobelet" - a form of spur pruning the head of the vine, which is found in the vineyards of the northern Rhone.
Due to their alpine nature, Ticino's vineyards are fragmented, albeit often found on slopes and terraces, enjoying a good aspect and a lacustrine or riverine view. Large vineyards are few and far between, as the valleys tend to be reasonably narrow – rarely broader than three kilometers (two miles) from one side to the other.
This limits the quantities that Ticino can generate as a wine region – a fact that will play an important part in the its future identity. Currently, the land is owned by a large number of independent growers who either sell their grapes to bigger companies or collaborate to form co-operative structures.