Swiss Wine Regions

Aargau: wine any way you like it

Red wine grapes (Garanoir) from Aargau Switzerland

Crisscrossed by rivers, dotted with hills & lakes, and including what seems like every type of soil a grapevine is capable of growing in, Aargau is the 4th largest German-speaking Swiss wine region.

It’s hard to believe—this being Switzerland—that until 1959 disorder reigned in Aargau’s wine production, at least as far as wine grape varieties were concerned. Then Phylloxera hit the grapevines, and controls were introduced that brought proper Swiss order to the region.

Initially, only handful of grape varieties were “recommended” for wine production in Aargau, but in keeping up with the times, today it seems it’s only the growing conditions—which vary widely—that limit the type of wine grapes found here. As is true in several other Swiss wine regions, the wine grape varieties range from old “rediscovered” grapevines to the newest hybrids.

Zones

The Aargau wine region can be sub-divided into three wine zones. The better-known wines come from Klingnau, Doettingen, Tegerfelden, Wuerenlingen and Ennetbaden, which are in the northeastern zone, in the Lower Aare and Limmat valleys. The other two zones are the northwestern wine zone, between Rheinfelden and Aarau, and the Southeastern zone between the Aare and Limmat rivers.

Since 1950, the annual Winzerfeste Döttingen, Aargau, Switzerland is the largest wine festival in German-speaking Switzerland.

Terroir

The variety of topography, location, climate and soil makes the wines of Aargau multi-faceted. Calcareous (lime) soil is almost ubiquitous in Aargau. Also prevalent are Morainic hills, plus river terraces with gravel, clay and silt. The limestone produces aromatic wine, while gravel soils can give the wine softness. Pinot Noir, called Blauburgunder here, becomes full-bodied and rich when planted in the heavy soils.

Almost all wine produced in Aargau is based on natural, environmentally friendly Integrated production (IP), with some companies following Vinatura production guidelines or even going further and producing organic wine. Many Aargau wines are awarded the A.O.C. label, Winzerwy, or Vinatura.

Grapes

Blauburgunder (Pinot noir) and Riesling x Sylvaner are the main grapes of Aargau’s wine output, with Blauburgunder the clear winner. Roughly 70% of wine production in Aargau is red wine. Other red wine grapes are Léon Millot, Dornfelder, Regent, and Gamay x Reichensteiner (Garanoir).

The white wine production of Aargau is mostly from Riesling x Sylvaner, followed by Pinot Gris, Räuschling, Chardonnay, Savagnin blanc, Charmont, Gewürztraminer, and Kerner.

As well as producing principally red wines Grappa is also made in this area.

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The Wine Grapes of Switzerland

Sémillon

Hard to believe that Sémillon’s main claim to fame is its propensity to rot, but because of its soft skin Sémillon is prone to Botrytis cinerea (a.k.a. “noble rot”). The “rot” concentrates the acid and sugar in the grape, and the resulting wine can be complex, rich, sweet, and aromatic. In short: pretty damn nice. The best known of this sweet style wine is Sauternes, coming from the Sauternais region of the Graves, near Bordeaux in France.

Sémillon can also make an elegant dry white wine, but since it can be short on acidity, it is often vinified with Sauvignon blanc.

Gamaret

A new variety, developed in 1970 at Pully (Vaud), Gamaret is enjoying a growing success with producers and consumers alike. It produces a wine that is richly coloured and well-structured with sometimes-spicy notes that ages well. Gamaret is a cross between Gamay and Reichensteiner (a white grape.)

Kerner

Named after local poet and physician, Justinus Kerner, the Kerner grape was hybridized in 1929 in Lauffen in the Württemberg region. A hybrid of the white Riesling and the red Trollinger (Schiava grossa), it resembles the Riesling in character. It is being vinified in limited quantities in Valais, but its future in Valais dosen’t look too bright. It continues to do well in Germany, and on a smaller basis in Austria and Italy.

Water for oxen, wine for kings.

Spanish Proverb

Swiss Alps, cows, wine bottle and large clock face in Bern, Switzerland

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