This year, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Club Concierge, the owners of four of the top wineries in the Canton of Vaud, Switzerland, visited Japan in March to share with us the traditions of sustainable winemaking and Chasselas, which date back to at least 1654 when it was first mentioned.
The Lavaux, a subregion of Vaud, extending from Lausanne to Vevey-Montreux is a beautiful area overlooking Lake Geneva and the magnificent Alps in the distance. It is home to breathtaking terraced vineyards, which in 2007 were the first to obtain UNESCO world heritage status. In the region, the Chasselas variety reigns supreme. The Swiss have very high expectations of quality and sustainability, which means the wines are not just excellent, they are also respectful of the environment. In addition many vineyards of the region have started a transition into organic / biodynamic production.
The personality of Lavaux’s esteemed wines comes from the presence of glaciers in the region, which carved out the spectacular terraced vineyards of Lavaux and formed Lake Geneva 10’000 years ago. The unique terroir gives the Chasselas wine a freshness, floral aromas and elegance with delicate mineral notes. In the 11th century, Benedictine and Cistercian monks cleared the steep slopes in the Lake Geneva area and built stone walled terraces to fortify them. The finest Chasselat is produced on the sheer slopes of the prestigious Dézaley AOC and the adjacent Calamin AOC.
Faced with the ecological concerns of a growing proportion of the population, the wine world has been promoting for some years sustainable initiatives, from the modernization of energy-intensive infrastructure; a switch from groundwater to lake water for irrigation and other needs. In the UNESCO-protected vineyards of Lavaux various restrictions on land management and winemaking are already in place to protect the fauna and flora, and sustainable farming and production methods are strictly adhered to.
The climate of Vaud is strongly influenced by the lake, which is particularly favorable for viticulture. In Lavaux, it is said that wine is nurtured by three suns – sunshine reflected from the lake, heat released from the stone walls supporting the vineyards at night and of course from the sun itself - providing ideal conditions for the growth of the vines.
La Maison Massy / Mr. Benjamin Massy
Benjamin Massy owns two monopole vineyards in the Lavaux appellation, where he nurtures his excellent Chasselas. Jean-Daniel Berthe, head grower of the estate's flagship wine, Chemin de Fer, was named "King of Winemakers" at the 2019 Fête des Vignerons, a once-every-20-years wine festival.
CLOS DE LA RÉPUBLIQUE / Mr. Patrick Fonjallaz
Founded in 1552, this is the oldest family-run winery in Switzerland. It was Charles Chaplin's favorite winery. Mr. Fonjallaz is the 13th generation head of the family. The winery owns grand crus in Dézaley and Calamin, two of Chasselas's most famous sites.
Domaine de la Pierre Latine / Mr. Philippe Gex
Mr. Gex initiated the "Yvorne Grandeur Nature" project, which aims to make the Yvorne the first organic appellation in Switzerland. All wines are grown organically for three years. Currently co-owned by Mr. Gex and the family that owns Roche, the world's largest pharmaceutical company.
Les Fréres Dubois SA / Mr. Grégoire Dubois
Among the vineyards in the Lavaux area, " Dézaley " produces particularly excellent Chasselas. The winemaker produces extremely elegant wines from Chasselas grown in " Dézaley-Marsens", the highest area in Dézaley. The winery is committed to sustainable winemaking, as part of their efforts they have installed solar panels on the roof of the farm and electric vehicles to reduce gasoline emissions.