They grow in the place where they originated. “Indigenous” refers to the fact that they are native, long-established and are deeply rooted in their homeland. Biologically speaking, it means they came to be where they are without human intervention.
Unfortunately, as many of these venerable grape varieties are more difficult to grow, produce poor yields or are prone to diseases, nowadays there are only limited plantings of such varieties.
The most important native Swiss grape varieties:
Thanks to its isolated location in the middle of the Alps, Valais is a veritable treasure-trove of indigenous grape varieties. These include Humagne blanche which has been planted in the Rhône Valley since the Middle Ages.
It is thought that this grape, grown in Valais since 1313 and now cultivated on around 30 hectares, originally came from the Rhône Valley in the south of France and migrated northwards from Marseille. Genetic fingerprinting has established that Humagne blanche is identical to Miousat, a variety cultivated in southwestern France.
This white grape has been associated with Valais for 400 years and is now a firm fixture of the winegrowing culture of the Rhône Valley. Petite Arvine grapes are currently planted on around 160 hectares in Valais. This variety is also popular in other cantons, with small plantings in Geneva, Vaud and Ticino.
For many years the winegrowers of Vétroz believed that Amigne was a grape variety brought over in antiquity at the time of colonization by the ancient Romans. This variety was often mentioned in the writings of Columella under the name Vitis Aminea. From an etymological standpoint therefore, it is easy to surmise a connection between Amigne and Aminea. Dr José Vouillamoz recently conducted a large-scale study to establish the origins of Valais grape varieties using genetic analysis. To the general surprise of wine experts, it emerged that the Amigne variety originated in Valais and is a distant relation of Petit Meslier, a grape from the Champagne region.