Rèze, wine of the Romans and Vin du Glacier
This is the antique grape par excellence. Rèze may be a descendent of Raetica (or Rhaetica), the white grape that was most widely planted in northern Italy during the Roman era, whose wine was vaunted by Plineus and Caton (Vouillamoz et al, 2007).
Rèze has been planted in Valais for centuries; its first mention in writing is in 1313. The grape is known for its role as one of the varieties used in the mythical Vin du Glacier from the Val d’Anniviers. The grapes are harvested on the plain then pressed before moving with nomadic farmers from the area who carry it on the backs of mules to cellars in mountain village. There, the wine ages in larch casks. It is consumed parsimoniously, drunk with respect. The vat is topped up once a year when the new wine arrives.
Rèze virtually disappeared when the vineyards were reconstituted after the phylloxera attack in 1916. Since then, the Vin du Glacier has been made with other grapes, in particular Ermitage, Malvoisie, Petite Arvine, Fendant and Humagne Blanc. It is an oxidized wine matured in wood, which bears some resemblance to the wines of Jerez from Andalusia, Spain, and Vin Jaune from the Jura mountains in France.
Sources: Histoire de la Vigne et du Vin en Valais «Le Vin du Glacier, le blanc qui traverse le temps», Samuel Pont, ethnologist.