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

Humagne Blanche

Only planted in Valais today, Humagne blanche* is another of the very old Swiss grapes, probably brought in by the Romans. Having a high iron content, and supposedly health-giving properties, this wine was decreed a “health wine” (Krankenwein) for centuries. The old written documents in which this wine is referred to as vinum hum-anum date from the 12th and 14th Centuries. It’s also called Kinderbettenwein or baby crib wine. I’ll bet those kids didn’t have much to cry about.

*no relation to the Humagne Rouge

Arvine

Another delivery from Rome, there are actually three Arvine grape varieties, only two used for wine production: Grand Arvine, with the larger berries, and Petit Arvine, with the, you guessed it, smaller berries. The unloved Arvine brune has faded from the scene. Grand Arvine gets criticized for displaying little character, whereas the Petit Arvine tends to have a fuller bouquet and lower acidity. In blind tasting, Petit Arvine generally kicks ass against its plumper brother. Arvine is also an excellent grape for late harvest wine, which can be cellared.

Cornalin

An ancient and indigenous alpine variety found only in Valais, Cornalin gives a wine that is fruity with a fine bouquet and intense purple-red color. The slightly rustic hint makes it a good companion for game dishes.

Wine is at the head of all medicines; where wine is lacking, drugs are necessary.

Talmud

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