The first vineyards were planted near the inhabited areas and close to the lake. The cultivation of the steepest zone (Dézaley) began during the second half of the 12th Century thanks to the Cistercians.
The Influence of the Lake
Lake Geneva’s influence on the local climate is crucial. The area benefits from the “triple sun” effect: the rays from the sky, the rays reflected from the lake and, lastly, the nightly release of heat captured in the vineyard walls during the day.Nature made the slope and man intervened to gain control yet had to constantly fight against erosion by evacuating waters to rivers and by slowing down streams to preserve the land. Walls also had to be created to break up the slope. Lavaux vineyards are characterised by the clear prevalence of family properties which were rare until the Reform (16th Century). Nowadays the vineyards from Lutry to Chardonne include more than 1800 landlords and around 1150 farmed areas.
In essence, the entirety of Lavaux wines is sold in Switzerland. Exportation, which remains limited, is beginning to develop. The beauty of Lavaux is entirely bound to the existence of the vineyards. How can we preserve the future of winegrowing while preserving that of the winegrowers? The only way is to promote the vineyards and the wine. It must therefore be understood that wine from Lavaux bought at a fair price contributes directly to the maintainance of this exceptional site.
Source : SIMON, Jean-Louis, MURISIER, François, « Viticulture », in Lavaux, Vignoble en terrasses face au lac et aux Alpes, Lavaux World Heritage Site Application File for UNESCO, Cully, January 2006, pp. 65-74.