Thanks to its isolated location in the middle of the Alps, Valais is a veritable treasure-trove of indigenous grape varieties. These include the Humagne blanche grape which has been planted in the Rhône Valley since the Middle Ages. It produces fruity white wines with floral notes and a pleasing acidity.
Energy-boosting wines from the Humagne blanche grape
The legends surrounding wine are wonderful as they cement identity and keep traditions alive. For instance, for centuries the wines made from Humagne blanche were believed to contain lots of iron and so they were prescribed as medicine for nursing mothers. These lucky women would be allowed to drink up to a litre a day in the form of spiced mulled wine or in a fortifying bread soup. Although science has in the meantime established that the supposedly high iron content is merely a legend, the lovely custom of gifting new mothers a bottle of Humagne blanche continues to this day.
It is thought that the Humagne blanche grape variety, which has been grown in Switzerland since at least the 14th century, originally came from the south of France and travelled up the Rhône Valley from Marseille. The first written mention of its cultivation in Valais is in the Register of Anniviers, which lists the Humagne blanche grape variety for the first time in 1313. Today it is planted on around 30 hectares in Valais.
Genetic fingerprinting has established that Humagne blanche is identical to Miousat, a variety cultivated in southwestern France. This theory also posits at least genetic similarities with the French grape varieties Colombaud and Dameret.
It also played a significant part in the origins of other indigenous Swiss varieties. For example, DNA analyses revealed that the ancient Valais Himbertscha and Lafnetscha grapes are descendants of Humagne blanche.
Fruity premium wines
Humagne blanche wines have captivating delicate floral aromas such as orange blossom, lime blossom and meadow flowers. The wines are very long on the palate, supported by a gentle acidity and a finish of toasted almonds.Valais winemakers vinify dry white wines from Humagne blanche. These golden-yellow shimmering wines possess good ageing potential. After around three years they develop a characterful honey aroma. Thanks to their restrained acidity and fruit-forward expression, these wines make an excellent choice for pairing with fish dishes, seafood and speciality cheeses.A long-established tradition in Valais’ Val d’Anniviers is the creation of “vin du glacier”. Traditionally Humagne blanche makes up about 10% of the blend with the Rèze grape. This white dessert wine was called vin du glacier because it was stored in barrels in the mountains surrounding the valley near the Zinal glacier.
Cultivation of the Humagne blanche grape variety
The name “Humagne” derives from the Greek hylomaneus, meaning strong and vigorous. The Humagne blanche vine does indeed tend to produce excessive fruit so winegrowers have to strictly limit yields or do a green harvest. This white grape is also highly susceptible to grey mould and powdery mildew.Its susceptibility to fungal diseases and problems during fruit formation may well be reasons why the variety has not spread further afield. It is extremely rare, nowadays being found almost exclusively in Valais. It gradually disappeared completely in France. Only in the Gascony region is an attempt being made to revive the grape.Discover Humagne blanche and other specialities from Valais. With just a few clicks you can order this white wine to be delivered to your door. Coop stores offer a wide selection of wines too.