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Contemporary History

The Vaud Revolution in 1798 led to many changes: some properties are nationalised then quickly sold back, Lavaux is split into two districts and parishes are dispersed to create municipalities. The only thing that remained unchanged was that the majority of the income of Lavaux continued to stem from wine growing.

From the second half of the 19th Century, winegrowers had to adapt their methods of cultivation: mildew, powdery mildew and phylloxera, a destructive aphid, continuously attacked the vines. These diseases, originated from the United States, forced the winegrowers to treat their vines with sulphate. From the beginning of the 20th Century, phylloxera required reconstruction of the vineyards whereby new plants were transplants onto surviving vines.

Federal intervention

The winegrowing activity required considerably more time and production costs soared causing the vineyard owners’ incomes to collapse. However, it is only after the Second World War that Lavaux inhabitants chose winegrowing as their permanent activity over farming.

In the face of an international winegrowing crisis resulting from overproduction, mass importation of cheap foreign wines and soaring production costs, winegrowers pleaded for support from cantonal and federal authorities. In response, these authorities took control of policies on viticulture, outlined various laws and decrees and greatly intervened through the introduction of insurance, import quotas and subsidies.

Main challenge

At the end of the 19th Century, urbanisation and industrialisation in Lausanne to the West and Vevey to the East put pressure on the Lavaux area and its vineyards. This movement was the catalyst for the initiative launched by Franz Weber requesting that, from 1977, the protection of Lavaux should appear in the Constitution of the Canton of Vaud. This demonstrates the challenges the winegrowers have had to face over the past two centuries; not only have ecological cultivation methods had to be implemented since the end of the 1970s, but nowadays they must continuously question whether wine-growing remains a sustainable activity.

Source : CARRUZZO, Sabine, « Histoire contemporaine », in Lavaux, Vignoble en terrasses face au lac et aux Alpes, Lavaux World Heritage Site Application File for UNESCO, Cully, January 2006, pp. 143-152.

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