Both nature and man have been kind to the canton of Vaud. This French speaking slice of Switzerland is home to the city of Lausanne with its impressive 12th century gothic cathedral, the famous lakeside resort towns of Montreux and Vevey, and the magnificent medieval fortress of Château de Chillon at the foot of the majestic Alps. It hardly comes as a surprise to learn that novelists Hemingway and Nabakov, composer Igor Stravinsky and fashion designer Coco Chanel (amongst many others) have historically chosen to make their homes amongst the lush green pastures and crystal clear waters of Switzerland’s second largest wine region.
The history of wine in the Vaud probably dates back to Roman times but it was the Cistercian monks, who through their determined cultivation of the Dézaley vineyards from the middle ages onwards, began to weave the tradition of wine-making into the fabric of the region. Nowadays the canton’s wine producing area is divided into four main sub-regions each with its own unique history and growing conditions - La Côte, occupying the North Western shore of Lake Geneva, the Lavaux region - a UNESCO world heritage site which extends along the lake from Lausanne to Montreux, Chablais - bordering the right bank of the Rhone river between Bex and Villeneuve, and Les Côtes de l’Orbe in the North of the canton. Each of the sub-regions benefits from the temperate climate and rich soil diversity of this South Western corner of Switzerland, with the lake helping to reduce frost in spring and regulate summer temperatures such that extremes are avoided.
The most well known and perhaps most prestigious appellation of the region is Dézaley AOC, whose 54 hectares of stone-terraced vineyards cling to the steep slopes above Lake Geneva. The almost impossible gradients, whilst providing obvious grape growing benefits, also create difficulties and potential dangers in tending the vines and harvesting the crop. Dézaley AOC, and neighbouring Calamin AOC, were the first of Switzerland’s appellations to receive the premier Grand Cru status in 2007.