The canton and thus the appellation, is named for its geographical position at the lower course of the Aare river before it joins the mighty Rhine. A patchwork canvas of lush green hills, agricultural land, rivers and lakes form the fabric of the Aargau landscape, and the close presence of multiple water sources helps to create perfect climatic conditions for the canton’s grape growers. The vine is divided into a number of sub-zones with the majority of the better known wines coming from the parcels along the Aare and Limmat valleys in the north-east of the canton.
Red varieties dominate with around two-thirds of the vineyard occupied by dark skinned grapes and Pinot Noir (Blauburgunder) is the clear winner here, accounting for fifty percent of production and delivering characterful wines that are reflective of terroir. In heavier, densely packed soil the grape tends towards full-bodied, rich, textured wines which are further enhanced by a period of oak-ageing; in lighter gravel or limestone, the same grape gives softer, fruitier examples. Other red varieties found in Aargau’s vineyards include Regent, Garanoir, Léon Millot and Dornfelder, though these exist in significantly smaller quantities than the principal.
Known by the somewhat misleading name of Riesling-Sylvaner, Müller-Thurgau is the most widely planted white variety here, joined by infrequent parcels of Räuschling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and the aromatic pink-skinned variety - Gewürztraminer.
Like so many of the Swiss appellations, the focus is on quality and sustainability, and the Aargau AOC label is a stamp of both of these. Almost all of the wines produced here use integrated production to minimise environmental impact, and many producers are now making wine that is completely organic. The appellation is also well represented on the Gault & Millau ‘Best Winemakers in Switzerland’ list and the canton is home to the German speaking region’s largest wine festival - the annual Winzerfeste Döttingen - which has showcased Aargau’s viticultural heritage for nearly seventy years.