Switzerland: History

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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Seeds from wild vines of the Neolithic age, between 3000 and 1800 bc, have been found at St-Blaise in Neuchâtel, and recent findings of a significant amount of vitis pollen in deposits below a lake near Sion in the Valais, as well as grape pips and pedicels at the Iron Age archaeological site of Gamsen near Brig in the Haut-Valais, suggest that winemaking already existed c.800–600 bc, before the roman era. In the Middle Ages, vine-growing spread under monastic influence, notably that of the Cistercians (see monks and monasteries), who planted the original Dézaley vines in Vaud. As elsewhere, medieval wines were thin, acid, and often helped by the addition of honey and other flavourings. In the 17th century, Swiss vignerons were already feeling the effects of wine imports from hotter climes, notably from further down the rhône Valley.