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Switzerland’s indigenous grape varieties

Indigenous grape varieties are grapes that have evolved in a particular region and have been cultivated there for a long time.
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:

White wine

Humagne blanche

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.

Petite Arvine

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.

Amigne

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.

Red wine

Humagne rouge

Humagne rouge is an indigenous alpine variety that has been grown in Valais since the 20th century. This late-ripening grape likes the dry climate of the Upper Rhône Valley.Humagne Rouge was first mentioned around 1900 in the grape variety inventory of the Valais municipality of Fully. How it came by its name is unclear as it is not related to Humagne blanche, the white variety established in Valais since the Middle Ages. According to the latest research, the red Humagne grape came from the Italian Aosta Valley and is identical to the Cornalin d’Aoste variety that grows there. It reached the Rhône Valley via the Great St Bernard Pass.

Cornalin

Cornalin – formerly known as Landroter – is an indigenous red wine variety from the Swiss-Italian Alps. The variety was well known and popular in Valais as early as the 14th century.But Cornalin is not easy to grow. It is susceptible to disease, ripens late, and yields can be irregular. The variety was thus grown less frequently and almost died out in the 1970s, before being rediscovered and systematically cultivated and marketed.