Covering five designated areas of production and 590 hectares in total, Chablais follows La Côte and Lavaux as the region’s third largest appellation d’origine contrôlée. The picture here is increasingly alpine with the high peaks seemingly within touching distance and the occasional fallen rock or boulder scattered amongst the vineyards as a reminder of the area’s mountainous surroundings. Characterised by century-old traditions, picturesque villages and glacier-sculpted landscapes, the region’s unique geology gives its wines a crisp, mineral nature.
Perhaps the most well known wine-growing territory here is that of Aigle, not least because of its imposing castle which houses an equally impressive wine museum and the annual ‘Mondial du Chasselas’ international competition, but also on account of its elegant wines mostly produced from the Chasselas, Pinot Noir and Gamay grape varieties. The village of Aigle and its immediate environs have 135 hectares under vine shared by around 20 wine-growers, making it the second largest of Chablais’ wine producing communities. Yvorne - with 160 hectares, is the largest commune within the appellation, and its wines, along with those of Aigle have received consistent praise from connoisseurs and critics within Switzerland and further afield. Whilst the vines here are somewhat more shaded than those on the northern part of the lake - receiving less sunshine during the day, the positive effects of the Föhn wind from the south (a factor also for the Valais region) ensures that the grapes are warmed and dried during the autumn period.
Owing to its location on the shores of Lake Geneva (Lake Léman), the village of Villeneuve - which includes neighbouring Roche and Noville, experiences a more favourable climate than other areas of the Chablais sub-region, with moderated temperatures and a greater amount of light reflected from the waters of the lake. Its 63 hectares are shared by only a handful of vignerons whose passion and dedication continues to yield award winning wines. Ollon with 122 hectares and Bex with 110 hectares - the latter also home to the extremely rare Chasselas Violet vine - make up the quintet of terroirs under the Chablais label.
Unsurprisingly the Chasselas grape dominates here, and the limestone-rich, rocky soils of the appellation’s vineyards give the wines of this variety a refreshing minerality. Other whites of note include Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay, whilst the reds are ruled by Gamay and Pinot Noir - both as varietals and in blends, with Merlot, Syrah and Gamaret also represented in smaller quantities.
Already wines with the Chablais AOC quality stamp are heralded as some of the finest in Switzerland, and as the country moves towards increasing the size of its export market, it is inevitable that the Grand Crus of this appellation will receive a much wider appreciation.