From 11th Century, Lavaux continuously took form thanks to donations made to the Bishops of Lausanne. This was the catalyst for Lausanne’s appropriation of Lutry, Chexbres and Corsier in 1079 which were gradually becoming the borders of the Lavaux territory.
In the 12th Century, vines are already being grown in several places in Lavaux and are even mentioned in 997 in Lutry. However, it is only thanks to the Bishops of Lausanne and Cistercian monks that Lavaux would be transformed into the winegrowing land which the canton of Vaud is known for. This strong presence of monks also rendered the deforestation and excavation work in the area considerably more dynamic.
The building of the “charmus”, the terraces built on the sides of the slopes, appears in documents dating back to 1331. This exhausting, labour and time-intensive work was not realised in a systematic way. An important part of the terraces in the prestigious areas of Dézaley, Clos-des-Abbayes and Clos-des-Moines are completed behind schedule between 1750 and 1830.The monks soon realised they would need to rely on local workforces to maintain the vineyards. A winegrower takes on several roles at once; he is transporter, labourer, miner, craftsman, cooper and cellar-man. He must also continue to farm to increase his income.
Letters of Nobility
The vine survived the Reformation thanks to the new authorities in Bern comprehending the importance of winegrowing and for which they set up a specialist governing body in 1706: “The Chamber of Wines”. The wines of Lavaux received patronage and were therefore acknowledged as a benchmark product of the Swiss Confederation. Henceforth, they are exported to Italy, Holland and Germany.
Source: COUTAZ, Gilbert, « Histoire de l’an 1000 à 1798 », in Lavaux, Vignoble en terrasses face au lac et aux Alpes, Lavaux World Heritage Site Application File for UNESCO, Cully, January 2006, pp. 134-142.