Lavaux, vineyard terraces (2007)

Lavaux, vineyard terraces
Lavaux, vineyard terraces
© Régis Colombo/

The Lavaux Wine-growing area covers a total area of 1,700 ha, of which 805 ha are actual vineyards, and includes the communes of Lutry, Villette, Grandvaux, Cully, Riex, Saint-Saphorin, Chexbres, Chardonne, Corseaux, Jongny, and Corsier-sur-Vevey. The area registered corresponds to the zone designated in the canton of Vaud's Law on the Lavaux Protection Plan (LPPL). The exceptional result of a unique natural setting and the patient labour of human hands, this landscape has a centuries-old story to tell. Its origins go back to the 12th century, when Cistercian monks laid the hillside out in terraces. The area's economy has continued to be almost entirely reliant on the vineyards ever since. Through their architecture and their structure, the villages recount the way wine-growing has evolved down the centuries. The many family homes, some of which started out as monasteries, add to the region's charm. A great number of picturesque lanes complete the fabric of this outstanding landscape, making a harmonious whole with the main motorway and railway routes, redolent of the 'parkways' of the United States. The area has many other historic buildings and remains that testify to the settlement here from Roman times right up to the present day. With the vineyards, the lake, and the panorama of the Alps opposite, Lavaux enjoys an incomparable setting, and images of it are known the world over.

The vineyard terraces are the result of the perfect adaptation of human endeavours to difficult natural conditions. This area has been living to the rhythm of wine and the vineyards for centuries. Evolving techniques have always respected the landscape. The authenticity of the Lavaux site lies less in the original substance of the terraces and their walls than in the rich historical layering of a landscape that has never stopped evolving - yet without losing its genius for maintaining that authenticity. Activities here have always been oriented towards one sole objective: wine-growing. The visual harmony of the present landscape is the best proof of the durability of this structure of landscape in terraces. Down the centuries, the walls have been maintained, renewed, and altered. Even today, the villages are mainly inhabited by wine-growing families, some of them living on the same land for twenty generations. The desire of the people to afford this landscape legal protection is all the more remarkable at a time when there is such strong pressure on economic growth and town planning - particularly here in Lavaux, surrounded as it is by the conurbations of Lausanne and Vevey/Montreux. Lavaux is sometimes even described as the 'Central Park' of the Lake Geneva basin. To counter this pressure, it's important for the area to be able to carry on working the vineyards - its core economic activity. Its registration on the World Heritage list is going to contribute to the preservation of this extraordinary landscape.

The wonderful beauty of Lavaux and its special charm have been celebrated by numerous painters, writers, and film-makers. Many are the artists to have evoked Lavaux in their works - from Ferdinand Hodler to Claude Chabrol, via Charles Ferdinand Ramuz:

"C'est tout habitué à l'obéissance par ici, depuis le temps que c'est
en vignes. Et le bon Dieu lui-même a décidé que ce serait en vignes,
ayant orienté le mont comme il convient, se disant:

'Je vais faire une belle pente tout exprès, dans l'exposition qu'il faut,
avec l'inclinaison qu'il faut, et je vais mettre encore dans le bas la nappe
de l'eau pour qu'il y ait ainsi deux soleils sur elle, que le soleil qui vient
ailleurs d'en haut seulement vienne ici d'en haut et d'en bas...'
Je dis que c'est le bon Dieu qui a arrangé lui-même tout ça, puis il nous
a dit: 'A votre tour', alors quoi? on est désignés. (...)

Le bon Dieu a commencé, nous on est venu ensuite et on a fini...
Le bon Dieu a fait la pente, mais nous on a fait qu'elle serve,
on a fait qu'elle tienne, on a fait qu'elle dure : alors est-ce qu'on
la reconnaîtrait seulement à présent, dit-il encore, sous son habillement
de pierre? (...)

Et ce n'est plus du naturel, c'est du fabriqué ; c'est nous, c'est fabriqué
par nous, ça ne tient que grâce à nous ; ça n'est plus une pente, c'est
une construction, c'est une tour, c'est un devant de forteresse..."

Charles Ferdinand Ramuz in 'A Poet's Passage' (1923)

The following wine-growing areas already figure on the UNESCO list: Cinque Terre and Costa Amalfitana (I, 1997), the St-Émilion wine-growing area (F, 1999), Wachau (A, 2000), the Douro Alto region (P, 2001), Tokaj (H, 2002), and the Pico Island wine-growing area in the Azores (P, 2004).

The Association pour l'inscription de Lavaux au patrimoine mondial de l'UNESCO (AIUL), set up to organize the Lavaux nomination at UNESCO, has handed the baton on to the CIL-UNESCO Commission (CCU), set up within the Lavaux Commune Commission (CIL).

Last modification 01.12.2013

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