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

Sylvaner

Originally from the Danube basin, Sylvaner is widely planted in well-exposed locations in Valais where it ripens later than Chasselas, producing wines with good body, bouquet and acidity. It is also used, although rarely, for late harvest wine.

Pinot Noir

Genetic studies have revealed that Pinot Noir is probably one of the two ancestors (the other being the humble Gouais) of some of the most important vines cultivated in Europe today. It is certainly a particularly ancient variety, and originally from Burgundy. Pinot Noir, with its associated clones, is found all over Switzerland, but it is only in the eastern region that it dominates production. It is either produced as a varietal or blended with other grapes. These blends are known as Salvagnin in Vaud and Dôle in Valais. Depending on where it is grown, it can produce a wine that is either light and fruity, or rich and full-bodied.

Bernarda

An old vine, but you won’t find it for sale anymore. However it’s being experimented with by Jean Nicollier (I’m searching for more references). The Bernarda is a Prié blanc from the Val d’Aosta that may have come into Switzerland over the St. Bernhard pass, and hence the name.

And how's this for a description of the perfect wine? "It's like the perfect wife--it looks nice and is nice, natural, wholesome, yet not assertive; gracious and dependable, but never monotonous.

Anonymous

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