The breathtaking natural scenery and rich history of the Lavaux vineyards has for centuries captured the imagination of both the connoisseur and the casual wine drinker. There are nearly 800 hectares under vine here on strikingly steep slopes that rise directly from the water’s edge to elevations of more than 2000 feet above sea level. Man-made terracing has been a key feature of the landscape since it was first introduced by the Cistercian monks in the twelfth century and more than eight-hundred years later, the same viticultural traditions remain with the passion and commitment to wine-making being passed down from generation to generation. The entire region - which was granted World Heritage status by UNESCO in 2007 - is a source of great pride to the Swiss, and in 2011, to celebrate the area’s spectacular scenery, a set of three stamps, by the acclaimed artist Bernard Völlmy, was commissioned by Swiss Post.
All of the villages under the Lavaux AOC label are blessed with a south-facing orientation and a favourable micro-climate. Temperatures are warm in summer and the intense alpine sunshine is magnified by its reflection in the lake and conserved by the stone walls that line the narrow terraces. The diversity of the appellation’s soils, ranging from limestone-rich clay to rocky schist, are expressed through the flavours of the fruits that they yield, with a good number of red and white grapes finding exceptional terroir on these lakeside slopes.
Chasselas is the appellation’s badge of distinction and the most commonly planted variety of either colour. The best examples of this varietal are crisp, elegant and complex, with intense floral aromas and a balanced structure. Pinot Noir, Gamay and Plant Robert - a rare and unusual biotype of Gamay which despite recent reemergence, remains endangered - dominate the red varieties, albeit accounting for only a fraction of the area’s total vines.
With the acclaimed grand cru appellations of Dézaley and Calamin unsurprisingly writing the headlines for this region, it’s easy to forget the Lavaux treasure chest that houses these jewels. Encompassing a number of other notable vin-villages such as Saint-Saphorin and Chardonne, as well as some lesser known territories, the wines of this appellation are undoubtedly amongst the finest in Switzerland.