In the gentle river valleys of Aargau and in the canton of Basel-Landschaft, winegrowing is experiencing a revival. Over the last few years, both the area planted with vineyards and the quality of the wines have steadily increased.
Decorated vases and bowls unearthed in the former Roman settlements of Augst, Windisch and Zurzach are evidence that wine was grown in Northwestern Switzerland 2,000 years ago. In the Middle Ages, winegrowing was chiefly the preserve of the monasteries and a handful of aristocratic houses. At the end of the 19th century, in Aargau alone, some 2,700 hectares were given over to winegrowing, meaning it had more vineyard at that time than Valais. The vineyards took a long time to recover from the assault of phylloxera. Today, as well as Müller-Thurgau and Pinot noir, some outstanding specialities are produced in the cantons of Aargau and Basel-Landschaft.
The vineyards of Aargau are mostly located on south-facing slopes close to the “Wasserschloss”, where the Aare, Reuss and Limmat rivers converge. The soils are well-suited to winegrowing, dominated as they are by the calcareous soils of the Jura and the scree-covered glacier ledges, with varying proportions of clay and marl. In Basel-Landschaft too, the soil tends to be poor, with large amounts of Jura lime as well as clay. The Basel-Landschaft wine region also incorporates small areas in the canton of Solothurn, the canton of Jura, and the region bordering Alsace.
Climate-wise, the northwestern part of Switzerland was long on the fringes for winegrowing. In cooler years in particular, chaptalization was the only way to impart fullness to the wines. Due to global warming, conditions have improved. Today, vintners in the cantons of Aargau and Basel-Landschaft enjoy the optimum conditions for producing elegant, complex wines. They are aided by comparatively low precipitation which, in some years and locations, is below the threshold of an annual 1,000 millimetres per square metre.
Balanced, well-structured Pinot noirs are the region's trademark. Zingy Müller-Thurgau (Riesling x Silvaner) and mainly white specialities complete the picture.