Situated in Northern Switzerland, the Aargau is a land of rolling farmland with hills topped with forests. It is a […]Keep Reading
Situated in Northern Switzerland, the Aargau is a land of rolling farmland with hills topped with forests. It is a quietly bustling canton of small towns and villages and an ideally bucolic place for commuters working in the surrounding cities of Basel, Zürich, and Luzern. To the North and over the Rhine is the German province of Baden, and within a short distance is the South of Alsace, French Jura, and the Swiss Alps. With only 380 hectares of vines, it might seem that the Aargau only plays a minor role in Swiss wine production, yet in the 19th century, more vines were planted here than in the Valais. Phylloxera may have devasted the breadth of viticulture in the Aargau, but it also ensured that only the most exceptional and prized parcels were replanted.
The geology of Aargau is a fascinating study of the interaction between rocks being built and weathered. Underneath most of the canton is Jurassic limestone of the same age as found in Baden, Jura, Neuchâtel, and Burgundy. But unlike these other regions, the Aargau has been utterly and profoundly altered by its proximity to the Alps. Plate tectonics not only created the Aargau’s rolling hills, but eons of glacial advance and retreat have laid down a complex mosaic of topsoils ranging from exposed rocky Jurassic clay-limestone to fine silt loams and every variation in between. With its hills topped with trees providing a multitude of microclimates and exposures, is it any wonder that a young winemaker with a passion for unique terroir expression would set up his cellar in the Aargau?
Tom Litwan didn’t start out intending to be the rising star of Pinot Noir in Switzerland, having first worked as a mason after graduating from school. A brief stay in Chablis, where he worked at a guesthouse, resulted in a friendship with Samuel Billaud. Together they spent a fair amount of time exploring Samuel’s family cellar, where Tom was introduced to the greatest bottles of Grand Cru Burgundy. Next, Tom returned to Switzerland to study winemaking at the Center of Viticulture in Wädenswil, focusing on biodynamics since all his favorite growers in Burgundy had already converted to biodynamic farming. He worked with Jean-Daniel Schlaepfer of Domaine des Balisiers in Geneva alongside biodynamic consultant Pierre Masson. His embrace of biodynamics resulted in a transfer to French-speaking Switzerland to complete his studies in a place where biodynamics was not quite as controversial.
In 2006 Tom settled in the Aargau and began acquiring small parcels of vines in some of the canton’s most prestigious sites. Despite his extensive background, Tom prefers to see biodynamics as one vital step in growing grapes with vitality and a pure expression of place rather than all the mystical marketing talk that so frequently surrounds this farming practice. His new cellar, located in Oberhof, is ideally situated between his vineyards in the Fricktal: Wittnau Büel, Wittnau Fure, Elfingen Rüget, Oberhof Haghalde, Herznach Allmend, and Schenkenbergertal: Oberflachs Auf der Mauer, Schinznach Rägnisbuehl, Schinznach Wanne, Thalheim Chalofe. Tom grows Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Müller-Thurgau, Zweigelt, and a single row of Petit Meslier. All his parcels are underpinned with Jurassic limestone and range in elevation from 400-500 meters. While this altitude might not seem extreme, the proximity to the Alps and the surrounding forests make these sites some of the last sites to ripen in the Aargau. He prefers heritage clones and massale selection, harvests by hand, and fermentations are spontaneous. His wines age in well-seasoned French oak barrels undisturbed until bottling with only a tiny amount of SO2 for stability.
With an enormous following already established in Switzerland, we only receive a tiny allocation of these highly prized and beautifully detailed wines.Close