Swiss Wine Regions

Weinbaumuseum am Zürichsee (Viticulture Museum)

Viticulture Museum, Au, Lake Zurich, SwitzerlandIt's rare to describe a museum as “welcoming”, but the Viticulture Museum is welcoming. Located on the peninsula Au (near Wädenswil) on Lake Zürich, the Viticulture Museum is both a museum and a focal point for people interested in Swiss wine and wine making. It offers both a historical perspective as well as addressing changes confronting Swiss winemakers today. On the day I visited they held a demonstration of barrel making, which is an endangered craft: there are currently three barrel makers in Switzerland and only one apprentice.

Opened in 1978 inside a converted barn, the Viticulture Museum gives insight into viticulture, from past to present, with an impressive collection of wine related items. The collection is organized by wine growing seasons and includes some weird and delightfully puzzling wine making gadgets. Housed in the “Trotte”, which is the name of the large, high-ceilinged pressing room, is the centerpiece of the collection; a 250-year-old, 13m long wine-press. The top floor of the museum hosts alternating special exhibitions.

Trotte, Viticulture Museum, Au, Lake Zurich, SwitzerlandThe Viticulture Museum's collection of documents is available for research, and it collaborates with various Swiss research institutions including the college of viticulture in Wädenswil. Edging the property of the museum are the vineyards of the Zürich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) with an extensive collection of varietals.

However, the museum is not just a storage place for old tools and documents. Behind the museum is a vineyard planted with historically popular grape varieties. Using traditional methods and tools, including the 250-year-old wine press, the museum produces its own wine, which is available for tasting along with wines from the various producers of the Zürich wine region.

Wine Barrels, Viticulture Museum, Au, Lake Zurich, SwitzerlandThe Viticulture Museum is in an attractive location and is easy to combine with other activities. You can drive, walk or bike to the peninsula, reach it by boat from Zürich or Rapperswil, or enjoy a short stroll past the vineyard from the train station. Although the main subject is wine, I suspect kids would get as much of a kick as the adults in trying to figure out what some of the gizmos are for.

The Viticulture Museum offers various extras such as museum tours, guided tastings of wine from the Zürich wine region, Apéros, and even booking the “Trotte” for events. As I said the Viticulture Museum is welcoming, and that I think is because the members are active and enthusiastic as is evidenced in the care of the displays and in the interest they show the visitors. The guide I had for my museum tour was knowledgeable, entertaining, and enjoyed his subject. The signs on the exhibits are in German but I expect if you give them some notice an English-speaking guide could be found.

The Viticulture Museum, Au, (Lake Zurich, Switzerland) is open on Sunday 14:00 to 16:00 (from the first Sunday of April to last Sunday of October).

The Wine Grapes of Switzerland

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.

Sauvignon blanc

One of the classic grapes of France, Sauvignon blanc is planted in most wine regions of the world. It produces a wide range of wine styles.

Gouais Blanc

A promiscuous grape. Not good for much, but with a long, long line of descendents, including the noble Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Possibly from Croatia, it’s called Heunisch Weiss in Central Europe.

The name Gouais is comes from ‘gou’, which is a scornful word from old French referring to its standing as the grape of the peasants. Very prevalent in the Ile-de-France and in the Champagne during the Middle Ages and perhaps brought into Valais by the descendants of the Ligurians.

Acidic and with little residual sugar, it’s primarily used to blend with low acidic wine to give it a bit of liveliness. Ampelographic studies in the old vineyards of Oberwallis have found a red Gwäss with the same characteristics as the white Gwäss. Almost abandoned, it survives in Haut-Valais hiding under the alias of Gwäss, thanks to Mr. Josef-Marie Chanton, http://www.chanton.ch/home.html

To eat, to drink and to be merry.

Ecclesiates

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

Fine Swiss Wine

Discover Switzerland’s odd grapes, small producers, and eclectic tastes