Cornalin, the grape that was rediscovered
The old Rouge du pays was the first coloured Valais wine. It was the drink of farmers, considered to have medicinal properties, but it disappeared when modern grape varieties arrived on the scene. Its first mention dates back to 1313. It was very much present throughout Valais until the start of the 20th century, and was well known for its restorative properties.
A wine that – while a daily table wine – is demanding. It will take only the ancient Valais pruning system and growers complain that it produces only every other year. But it is a grape that is happy with the poorest soils and it will face the toughest winter freezes and last nearly a century in the ground.
At the start of the 20th century phylloxera menaces it and the rebuilding of the vineyards benefits newer grape varieties that are easier to work and more productive. Thus, “Rouge” disappears little by little from the Valais wine-producing countryside. There are only a few vines left in the 1970s when agricultural engineer Jean Nicollier decides to bring it back and re-name it Cornalin.
Forgotten, then re-discovered, the old Rouge grape from Valais enters the club of the canton’s specialty wines in the 1990s. It easily becomes part of the Sélection Valais programme, a cantonal appellation to safeguard the genetic heritage of the canton’s grapevines. Today, Cornalin is one of the drivers of Valais wines, along with Petite Arvine.
Source : Histoire de la Vigne et du Vin en Valais, «Le conte du Petit rouge devenu grand », Anne-Dominique Zufferey and Sabine Carruzzo.