Photo credit: Elaine and Scott Harris

Since 1068 Europe’s Oldest Winery Schloss Salenegg Has Been Producing High Quality Swiss Wines

Many are surprised to learn that Europe’s oldest winery is in Switzerland in the stunning village of Maienfeld in the Canton of Graubünden. Visiting this region, easily accessible from Zurich airport via the Swiss Federal Railway, will enliven the traveler with its clean air, majestic mountains, clear blue lakes and special thermal waters—invoking images that come to life like a childhood story book and yes, it is the setting for Johanna Spyri’s 1880 novel of Heidi, and of course named Heidiland by locals for almost a century. The allure of Spyri’s novel lives on with over 150,000 yearly visitors to the region. 

It all began around 950 A.D. when the abbot of Pfäfers Monastery laid the foundation for the present castle and vineyard. The first record of viticulture in the region was in 950 and the Pfafers monks are also mentioned with this same wine estate in Maienfeld archives in 1068. The huge wooden wine press (Torkelbaum), dates from 1656 and is closely linked with the history of the Von Gugelberg family of Castle Salenegg. The young winemaker at Weingut Schloss Salenegg, is the same-named Weingut Schloss Salenegg, who has been involved in the winemaking process as an intern and now has taken the reigns as resident winemaker. “I am the winemaker and I am very proud to be here,” said Weingut. “We have 13 hectors, which is big for the region, but not for Switzerland. The special thing is in a small town such as Maienfeld there are 14 or 15 working cellars.” In modern times, the family blends tradition with advanced winemaking techniques. A good example is their Pinot Noir—punch downs and fermentation continues for ten days in steel tanks and then are moved to the old traditional wooden barrels where the full expression of the region begins. 

The Pinot Blanc "Schloss Salenegg" is the traditional wine of the region. The Calcareous slate soil provides brilliant minerality to the wine and is the flagship of Salenegg Castle. In the glass, it shows light floral notes. On the nose, ripe red cherry and hints of earth jump out of the glass moving on to light spice notes on the palate with moderate tannins on the finish. The Le Miroir, Salenegg Castle, Assemblage, AOC Graubünden is a light Pinot Noir produced in a steel tank without any wood influence. This wine has plenty of bright cherry notes and light spice, making this wine an excellent easy-to-sip companion for any occasion. For a bigger experience, the Cuvée Rouge AOC Graubünden is the answer. A blend of Zweigelt and Merlot combine dark fruit aromas and balanced tannins to marry to impress the nose and the palate of any oenophile. 

Grab a bottle, take a seat and enjoy grilled meat like the Boeuf Stroganoff and cigar by the fireplace. Rose wine is a nice refreshing treat on warmer days. The Rose Castle Salenegg Castle, Pinot Noir AOC Graubünden delights the palate with its magnificent color, crisp acidity and bright cherry flavors. When its time for some bubbles, Les Etincelles de Salenegg Blanc de Blanc, AOC Graubünden is a brilliant choice. The mineral soils of the Grisons are perfect for Chardonnay grapes. On the nose of this sparkling wine you find a lovely bouquet of exotic fruits typical of the Chardonnay. On the palate, it’s refreshing acidity and fine spicy notes provide an exceptional experience sip by sip. In this region, every castle makes a dessert wine. The Le Solei d'Ulysse Salenegg Castle, Pinot Noir, Dessert Wine is theirs. In this expression, Pinot Noir fermentation was interrupted with Pinot Noir brandy from its own distillery and then sweetly expanded in the barrique. On the nose, red fruit aromas are prominent, giving way to a palate that is elegant without alcoholic heaviness. This dessert wine is just plain fun and shows off Pinot Noir brilliantly.

The Castle is now owned by family von Gugelberg von Moos. Believe it or not, there have been no changes made to the architecture since 1652. In addition to wine, they also produce more than 20 different delicate vinegars, which is unusual for the region. This land and castle have stood the test of time and you can taste the tradition in very sip. 

Families immerse themselves in the world of Heidi and Peter at the original site of Heidi history; active guests are on their way between lake and mountain with a hiking backpack or mountain bike or regenerate in the spectacular health resort, The Grand Resort Bad Ragaz. Wine options abound, with over a dozen gourmet restaurants such as the restaurant Falknis located within the historic hotel Falknis where local culture brings interesting flavors to curious connoisseurs.

In the cold season, the winter sport areas of Flumserberg and Pizol, with over 100 km of slopes, captivate eager sports enthusiasts. Great gourmet restaurants like Schloss Brandis in the middle of the town of Maienfeld in the old medieval Brandis Castle, a deserving member of the esteemed Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, showcase the elegance already established by the Bad Ragaz resort of Grand Hotel Quellenhof and Spa. From winery Salenegg, considered the oldest existing winery in Europe, to the region’s fabled thermal waters, Heidiland continues to embrace and engage tourists with long lasting tradition that makes story tales come to life.