Lavaux forms a landscape where nature and human beings are in perfect symbiosis. Mankind lives harmoniously within the given environment, relying primarily on the rocky banks then building stonewalls elsewhere.
Lavaux is primarily a structured landscape where the main shapes reflect the rocky geological formations beneath the surface. The various levels were formed through the natural process of erosion which led to hills made of steps on which vines grew. To the East, the Mont-Pèlerin banks took up the role of structuring. To the West, these slopes became more indistinct due to the progressive disappearance of the banks.
What rendered the Lavaux landscape remarkable is mankind’s exploitation of the land. Local inhabitants converted the landscape to make it suitable for farming. Lavaux is a landscape shaped by man.
Man Adapted to his Environment
During this process, societies who transformed this land conformed to the morphological context. Thus, at the foot and on the sides of Mont-Pèlerin, where the slope is more moderate and the climate is more humid, the foot and peak only, separated by the slope’s gradient, were cleared. The tops of the banks, useless or even too dangerous for farming, were left as forest.
The steepest parts of Lavaux where the highest and the closest banks are found were exploited and terraced for winegrowing. In several places, the slopes were transformed into walls which separate vineyards into terraces. Occasionally, these banks nowadays form artificial strengthening walls.
Source : REYNARD, Emmanuel, « Géographie », in Lavaux, Vignoble en terrasses face au lac et aux Alpes, Lavaux World Heritage Site Application File for UNESCO, Cully, January 2006, pp. 40-42