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.
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".
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.
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.
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.
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.