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

Johannisberg

Second in white wines of Valais (after Fendant). The name Johannisberg is only used in Valais; the rest of French-speaking Switzerland call it Gros Rhin. The grape used to make Johannisberg is the Grüner Sylvaner. The origin of the grape is not clear. On the one hand it strongly resembles the Roman Apianisien (loved by bees) grape, as described by Pliny the Elder in his “Historia naturalis”, on the other hand, its more likely birthplace is in Romanian Transylvania.

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.

Regent

Regent is a very practical red grape. It matures early, is resistant to disease, needs little protection, and makes a decent wine. Cool.

Water for oxen, wine for kings.

Spanish Proverb

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