Origins of Chasselas
Various hypotheses have been put forward concerning the origin of Chasselas such as that suggesting Chasselas originates from the Fayoum Oasis in Lower Egypt where there is a similar variety to the Chasselas. Today, ampelographers agree on the theory of Berget who, in 1932, wrote: "Until there is an undeniable discovery, however improbable, we believe we must maintain that the origins of Chasselas are, as for the majority of famous and widespread varieties, as is confirmed by the oldest texts of the ampélonomes: the variety originates from the country where their culture is both the most widespread and the most ancient. From this point of view, there is no doubt that the Chasselas is the Swiss grape par excellence. Just as Pinot Noir and Gamay are from Burgundy and Cabernet and Semillon are from Bordeaux, if the origin of Chasselas is Egyptian, it was spread to Europe from Lake Geneva.
The different names of Chasselas and its development
In the past, what we now designate as Chasselas, was known under other names. In the canton of Vaud, these different names would depend on the clone in question. Thus, we grew russet Fendant, green Fendant, Giclet, Blanchette or Rodzasse. The reputation of Vaudois wine continued to grow and thrive; exported throughout Switzerland and Europe, people’s desire for it grew and, in the 18th Century, Fendant was planted throughout the Pays de Vaud under a variety of names such as Luzannois , Vivisier or Valet Blanc in Franche-Comté and in the Jura, Gutedel or Krachgutedel in Alsace, Margraviat in Germany or Lozanner in the Duchy of Württemberg. In fact, by the 18th Century, it was the custom to give a newly arrived plant the name of the vineyard from which it was derived. Therefore, in Annecy and Chambéry Fendant was called Crépy or Ripaille, in Champagne it was known as Basiraube because of the Bar sur Aube, etc. In France, Chasselas therefore became the grape of the table par excellence.
In the 19th Century, in the canton of Vaud, Fendant-Chasselas continued to be cultivated and made into wine.
In 1850, the canton of Valais, which was still a relatively small wine producer, developed its vineyards on its hillsides. The Valais people introduced Fendant on a massivee scale and its development was primarily aimed towards a wine sold under a unique name: "Fendant". This name became common in the Valais to the extent that the Valais people made it a protected product through a controled designation of origin.
On the other hand, the canton of Vaud has always highlighted the production area rather than the variety to the point where labels stating the wine was a Fendant or a Chasselas were rare. The people of Vaud sold Dézaley, Calamin, Vinzel and Morges or even more precise areas such as Clos des Abbesses, Clos des Moines, etc..
Different kinds of Chasselas