What it lacks in size it certainly makes up for in quality. Calamin AOC - a tiny grade A wine-growing territory in the Swiss canton of Vaud covers an area of just sixteen hectares and forms a petite but premier part of the UNESCO world heritage Lavaux vineyards. This minute appellation - along with neighbouring Dézaley, the first Swiss site to receive the prestigious Grand Cru label - benefits from a sunny aspect, distinctive, mineral-rich clay soils, and the natural climate control of Lac Léman (Lake Geneva).
Wine has been cultivated here uninterrupted since the 12th century, and owing both to the constraints imposed by the landscape and a natural respect for tradition, much of the planting, tending and harvesting is still carried out by hand. With minimal use of chemicals or modern machinery, wine-making in this part of the Lavaux region remains a small-scale boutique operation with the focus on producing elegant, memorable wines of international quality.
The appellation is dominated by the emblematic Chasselas grape which has found its perfect terroir on the shores of Lac Léman. Intense sunshine during the day, reflected by the lake’s crystal clear waters and stored for night-time release by the stone walls that line the terraces, afford the vines optimum temperatures and luminosity, whilst the subtle differences in soil composition - even between producers only a few hundred yards apart, give each Calamin Chasselas its own unique personality. Red varieties are part of the parcel here too, albeit in smaller quantities, with Pinot Noir and Gamay the leading grapes of this type.
Clinging to the south-east end of Epesses - itself a small lakeside village which in 2011 merged with adjacent municipalities Cully, Grandvaux, Riex and Vilette to form Bourg-en-Lavaux, tiny Calamin is so often referred to as the ‘Jewel in the Crown’ of Swiss wine appellations. And when one sits back against this stage-set of breathtaking beauty, to sample a glass of the fresh, delicate and slowly revealing Chasselas for which the area is renowned, it’s incredibly easy to see why…