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The secular terraces of the lavaux vineyard

12 August 2021

A narrow strip of land extending over some thirty kilometers on the shores of Lake Geneva, the Lavaux vineyard (canton of Vaud) enjoys a particularly favorable climate for the cultivation of vines which has prompted men to shape its slopes. steep.

The exceptional character of this wine-growing landscape was recognized in 2007 by the inscription of the site “Lavaux, vineyard on the terrace” on the UNESCO world heritage list as “exceptional example of the centuries-old interaction between people and their environment. , developed to optimize local resources to produce a highly valued wine that has always been important to the local economy. ”


The Lavaux vineyard represenrts over 700 hectares between Lausanne and Montreux in the communes of Chardonne, Chexbres, Corseaux, Corsier-sur-Vevey, Cully, Epesses, Grandvaux, Jongny, Lutry, Puidoux, Riex, Rivaz, Saint-Saphorin and Villette.

The Lavaux vineyard has three appellations: Lavaux AOC, Calamin AOC and Dézaley AOC in which Chasselas, called Fendant in Valais, largely dominates, which occupy nearly 80% of the cultivated plots. Lavaux wines have a very distinctive character which is affirmed, for example, by fruity and spicy aromas for the Calamin Grand Cru appellation or by a remarkable breadth and persistence of aromas for the Dézaley Grand Cru appellation.


The terraces of Lavaux

The cultivation of vines has been documented in the region since Roman times. However, the Lavaux vineyard was not shaped into terraces until the 11th century under the leadership of the Benedictine and Cistercian monks from the monasteries of Lutry, Hautcrêt or Montheron which dominated the region at the time.

The wine-growing landscape has since been characterized by narrow terraces, formerly called “charmus”, supported by walls which cover the bottom of the steeply sloping slopes between the villages and the shores of Lake Geneva. There are currently nearly 450 kilometers of retaining walls, which can reach 5 to 6 meters in height, supporting more than 10,000 terraces.

The terraces, mostly aligned parallel to the shores of the lake, were made with local limestone bonded with lime mortar.


The climate of Lavaux

The Lavaux region (which is located at the same latitude as the Mâconnais) enjoys a favorable climate thanks to its proximity to Lake Geneva which regulates the temperature, prevents freezing and promotes mild winters. Hanging on a south-facing slope, the vineyard benefits from direct radiation while taking advantage of the sun’s reflection on the lake and the nocturnal restitution of the heat accumulated thanks to the countless stone walls. These three factors are at the origin of the concept of the “three suns”, particularly anchored in the popular tradition of Lavaux: “here, there are three suns: that of the sky, that of the lake and that of the walls. ” Because of their orientation, the terraces are also sheltered from cold winds and the heat transfer between air and water maintains hot or cold air currents which reduce humidity. An exceptional landscape testifying to the interactions between man and nature that we invite you to discover this summer, just like the other vineyards in the world located near your holiday resorts! Visuals © D.R.

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