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26.09.2005
AOC quality certification for top wines from Liechtenstein
Liechtenstein has adopted the European wine quality system
 

Wine growing is experiencing a renaissance in the Principality of Liechtenstein. Over 100 winegrowers produce red and white wines which, despite only small differences of location and soil, represent an astonishing variety. By joining the European wine quality system with designation of origin, Liechtenstein has linked up with the international AOC classification.

From now on, Liechtenstein wines will be found alongside the most renowned wines from around the world. The revision of the Wine Act, which is based on the relevant provisions of Swiss wine legislation and EEA requirements, now allows recognition of Liechtenstein wines at the international level and access to the highest quality classifications. A wine quality ordinance specifies the prerequisites for AOC designation as a guarantee for the declared origin of the product. From now on, wine lovers will, for instance, be able to enjoy a "Grand Cru Liechtenstein".

The quality designation is being introduced at a time when wine growing in the Principality of Liechtenstein is again booming. While during the second half of the 19th century, wine was Liechtenstein's main export alongside cattle, the first half of the 20th century brought bad harvests and parasites, leading to the collapse of the wine industry. Vineyards had shrunk to a few acres; but thanks to the renaissance of viniculture over the last three decades, the total area of vineyards has grown back to about 64 acres. During the most successful era of Liechtenstein wine growing, however, the total area of vineyards was far greater: the high point was in 1871, with 790 acres. The decline of domestic viniculture can be attributed to a number of different factors. Foreign competition increased after the opening of the Arlberg railway in 1871, and a series of bad harvests damaged output and profits. New wine diseases such as "false mildew" contributed to the shrinking of harvests. Mandatory vine spraying ordered by the Government after 1890 failed to prevent the steady decline of wine growing.

With the exception of Vaduz, vineyards disappeared almost completely from the Liechtenstein landscape, until production of the much-celebrated "nectar of the gods" began to grow again. Until a few years ago, Blauburgunder dominated the vineyards, since this grape proved to be the best suited to the climate and soil, despite various experiments with other grapes. Cultivation of Müller-Thurgau (Riesling x Sylvaner) began in the middle of the 19th century, gradually displacing White Elbling – a leftover from the Roman era. The over 100 winegrowers of today are naturally no longer satisfied with these two grapes. In addition to the traditional grapes, new varietals are being cultivated – in total, no fewer than 22 different types of grape. The most popular white wines are Chardonnay, Riesling x Sylvaner, and Gewürztraminer, while red wines are dominated by Blauburgunder, Zweigelt, and Blaufränkisch. The interspecific Regent grape is also widespread, and Syrah is being tried out – and in the highest vineyard in the Walser village of Triesenberg at 850 meters (2800 feet), an experiment with the French Léon Millot grape has been successful.

With the revised Wine Act, which has eliminated obsolete provisions from 1944, Liechtenstein has taken the steps necessary to adapt to two different economic areas. On the one hand, the preconditions have been met to ensure that Liechtenstein wines will continue to have access to the highest wine category on the Swiss market. On the other hand, Liechtenstein has to comply with EEA demands requiring a grape directory and classification system for quality wines, including designations of origin. The Government increased the appeal of these changes for winegrowers by showing that they are the prerequisite for the international recognition of Liechtenstein wines as quality products. The discussion concerning wine quality, which was triggered by these new rules, is probably as old as viniculture itself, which began during Roman times on the territory of what is now Liechtenstein. There are already testimonies of winegrowing during the era of Charles the Great (742 – 814); later on, cloisters and monasteries owned vineyards in almost all municipalities. The most widespread grape, Blauburgunder or Pinot Noir, is said to have entered Liechtenstein through the Bündner Herrschaft. If the legend is true according to which Henri Duc de Rohan (1579 – 1638) recommended that the farmers of the Bündner Herrschaft cultivate Blauburgunder, as the Rohan statue in Jenins states, then the duke's idea has also had positive repercussions for the neighboring Principality to this day.

According to the new wine quality ordinance, Liechtenstein wines are divided into two categories. Wines with protected designation of origin or AOC designation (appellation d'origine contrôlée) and all other wines. For top wines, which are verified by a commission, the quality designation "Sélection Liechtenstein" is permissible. The label "Grand Cru Liechtenstein" can only be used by wines that attain at least 85 out of 100 points in a blind wine tasting by the wine commission. Grapes for the quality wine from Liechtenstein must also be grown in vineyards that abide by the principles of organic agriculture or integrated production.

 
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