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LAVAUX: MY TERROIR OF ADOPTION

Lavaux … I was asked several times the question “how did you find a place to stay in Saint-Saphorin?” … my answer was naive; I was especially looking for peace and to be deeply into this wine producing region.

Here is why I have the pleasure of waking up every day facing the lake and those vineyards, starting to free themselves from the night at the time of my first coffee break. 

People here often speak of the three suns to explain the sources of energy that plants receive: direct light, reverberation of the lake and heat released by the dry-stone walls, near which some late ripening varieties are usually planted (see Merlot, Syrah), for they could hardly come to a head in other parts of the vineyard.

 

 When approaching these walls one understands that the real “cement” that holds these stones in place are the hard hand work, the perspiration and the know-how of those who knew how to build them …
Often relatively thick layers of soil cover the rock, sometimes just a few centimeters, as it is the case with the Dézaley, where the vine roots must draw all they can from the nearly-naked mother rock.

 

The landscape of the Lavaux is a undulating hillside facing the eastern Alps which is made by a molassic subsoil born out of two main processes: sedimentation and agglomeration.

This shaping of the hills, as we know them today, dates back to 18-15’000 years ago under the activity of the Glacier du Rhône: this monstrous mass of ice, that stretched from the eastern Valais to Lyon and sometimes reached 2,000 meters in thickness, caused a colossal erosion and a massive amount of debris called ice moraine. The glacier has thus exerted a formidable pressure on the sedimentary rock which has become what is called “pudding stone”. It is also credited with the formation of Lake Geneva, the largest lake of glacial origin in Western Europe.

 

The dominant variety here is Chasselas. A variety that has seduced me over time, by tasting it over and over again, and following it through the pruning season in the winter months until the harvest, from the finished wine to the hard task of challenging decades of bottle aging.

I simply admire more and more its subtlety, transparency and truth. The Chasselas, which is hardly rich in sugar, it is a first epoch grape variety even if, despite this generic definition, it is often harvested in October, poor in natural acidity, often marked by bitterness in case of plant stress or overproduction. All this to say that with a great terroir, as is the case in Switzerland, Chasselas becomes a great grape variety.

However, the window range in which it must fall to make a “Grand Vin” is relatively narrow and requires the winegrowers to gather all the love and knowledge of their terroir, combined with a great technical background and a good opening of mind.

With these few words, I hope I made you want to drop by this unique region, it will be the occasion to reveal to you some pearls hidden in this millenary legacy.