Taking its name from the country’s northernmost canton and the pretty, medieval city that serves as its capital, Schaffhausen AOC is a Swiss wine appellation close to the border with Germany. With four-hundred-and-eighty hectares under vine and a reputation for high quality, it is one of German Speaking Switzerland’s most important wine-producing regions.
There are four distinct growing areas here of which Klettgau is by far the largest and most productive. Stretching along the national boundary, and encompassing the towns of Hallau, Gächlingen and Trassadingen, the district accounts for around eighty percent of the total cantonal vine, is the region’s largest contiguous wine-growing area and counts some award-winning producers amongst its number. Here, the gentle, rolling hills with soils consisting mostly of deep, calcareous clay provides perfect conditions for the appellation’s emblematic grape.
The smaller districts - between the towns of Stein am Rhein and Hemishofen in the upper part of the canton, the detached enclave of Buchberg and Rüdlingen, and the area around the city of Schaffhausen itself, each have around thirty hectares under vine comprising small parcels of mostly Pinot Noir and Müller-Thurgau. Soil composition varies between districts, and to some degree between individual plots, and the proximity of the Rhine plays an important role in temperature moderation. On the steep slopes of Stein am Rhein for example, soils are more shallow and gravelly than those of the Klettgau, whilst in Buchberg / Rüdlingen, the earth consists largely of marl and sandstone. This diversity, coupled with the variety of vinification and ageing methods used by wine-makers, results in a range of strikingly different wines being produced from a small number of varieties.
Mono-varietal Pinot Noir is unsurprisingly the most common wine produced under the Schaffhausen AOC label, and these range from light, delicate fruit-forward wines to rich, textured, examples that have aged in oak for prolonged periods. Producers also make mono-varietals and blended wines from a number of other varieties grown in the canton but in much smaller quantities. Regent, Cabernet Dorsa and Dakapo are amongst the supporting red grapes vinified here, and Müller-Thurgau, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are the three white varieties with the largest vine share.
Canton Schaffhausen has a rich viticultural history, which since the implementation of Switzerland’s French style appellation system in the nineteen-nineties, has - like all of the country’s wine-making regions - seen a significant improvement in quality. With a number of its producers included by Gault & Millau in their most recent ‘Best Swiss Wine-makers’ list, the Schaffhausen AOC label is today a symbol of excellence, precision and sustainability.