Humagne Blanche is a white wine grape variety that can be found in the Valais region of Switzerland. It is also grown under the name Miousat in Gascony. It is one of the oldest Valaisan wines first mentioned in the 12th century. It has an ancient reputation of being the wine of lords and bishops during the Middle Ages and has long been described as a health wine for centuries, especially for women in and after childbirth due to its high iron content.
Today, this old indigenous grape variety is known as the treasure of Valasian heritage, yet it is very difficult to grow and is therefore a rarity even in Switzerland. It is a delicate grape that requires good care and a limited harvest.
Predominantly greenish yellow, Humagne Blanche is produced as a dry wine with fairly low alcohol content. This wine is renowned for its invigorating characteristics. It is a delicate wine with aromas of white blossoms and exotic fruit notes of honey and resin. It is also highly acidic which gives the wine a nice crispness. Its distinctive character develops to its full potential after approximately 3-5 years of storage.
Humagne Blanche is unrelated to the red Humagne Rouge despite the apparent similarity in the name. Humagne Rouge is the name given to Cornalin in Valais.
Humagne Blanche is related to Colombaud which suggests that it derived originally from the south of France and not, as some people suggest, introduced to the region by the Romans.
The origins of this grape are not without debate. It most likely began in north east France and south west Germany, though some believe that it is from Egypt and others, with no botanical proof, say that it is not from Vitis Vinifera but from Vitis Aminea or even other strains of Vitis.
Heida is the parent or grandparent of an impressive line-up of offspring, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Silvaner, Neuburger, Grüner Veltliner, Verdelho and Traminette, among many others. It is related to Pinot but the parent/offspring relationship cannot be defined.
In Switzerland it is grown only in the Valais, principally in the vineyards around Visperterminen at an altitude of some 1100 metres above sea level, where the Föhn, a warm southerly wine, helps ripen the grapes. This is a truly old variety. The first written records date from 1586 when it was referred to as "Heyda", but it has been in use much longer. Indeed, the name Heida itself is local patois for "ancient" or "from an earlier time" and the French name "Païen" descends from "Pagan", i.e. before Christianity.
Plantings today are still limited with just some 15 hectares in commercial production. In the vineyard, Heida's grapes are small and compact and are yellowish and aromatic. It ripens mid-season, later than Chasselas, but before Petite Arvine. Heida makes, in my view, some of the best Valaisan white wines which can be complex and powerful, with exotic fruit flavours including quince. Heida ages quite well and should last 5 years without problems. They can also be versatile when food matching, going well with many vegetable dishes, cold meats and fish.
Most Traminer in Austria is either Roter Traminer or Gewurtztraminer. There is, however, a rare grape called Gelber Traminer. Do not expect to find any Traminer on our website. Have a look at the details for each wine and see what it really is!
As a half-Swiss I know what distinctive, quality wines Switzerland can produce. Until now, the problem has been locating them in the UK, since the demise of the Swiss Centre in Leicester Square many years ago. Keep them coming!
PS: I would like to see, and taste a pinot noir or two from the Germanic region - very distinctive from Burgundy, but more importantly from the lighter, thinner Germanic pinot.
It was the first time I have ordered from Alpine Wines and I just wanted to say that I found the unexpected follow-up call a very nice touch. I am also pleased to report that it was the winning wine for our Austrian evening at our very informal wine club!