An old story vividly illustrates the hardships of bringing wine from Piedmont to Switzerland in days gone by: In the Furka region between Uri and the Upper Valais, one sometimes sees patches of snow which appear to have been drenched with red wine. Local villagers believe these stains were once caused by wine-addicted porters who carelessly lost part of their freight while transporting wine by pack animals from Piedmont across the mountains to Switzerland. As a penance, their souls are now imprisoned forever in these icy snowfields. However, any merciful passer-by who pours a few drops of wine onto the snow in remembrance of these poor sinners will still be guided safely through the most dangerous parts of this mountain trail.*
Baur au Lac Vins – The epitome of tradition and innovation
Another aged manuscript – this time a handwritten cellar book – testifies that the Baur au Lac was among the first organisations in Zurich to sell wines from Bordeaux (starting in 1875), along with wines from Burgundy, Alsace, southern Germany (Marktgräfler Land), the Rhineland-Palatinate, Valtellina and various regions of Switzerland. The wines were stocked en vrac in casks and bottled only for sale. Lack of space moved the hotel to rent additional cellar facilities in the Bleicherweg, Kirchgasse and Rennweg. In the first half of the 20th century, the producers in Bordeaux, in order to guarantee both the origin and quality of their wines, began to bottle them on their own estates (mis en bouteille au château).
The Hotel Baur au Lac sold wine to take away as early as 1870. In 1902, the Bonne Ménagère, a shop selling a selection of fine wines and spirits, opened for business at Börsenstrasse 27 (today Baur au Lac Vins Hotel). It was 70 years before the company moved into new cellars and offices. Yet it did not take long before even the new premises in Zurlindenstrasse were unable to contain the constantly growing wine assortment, so another new solution had to be found. In 1985, the Kracht family therefore acquired real estate in Urdorf, just west of Zurich, and built the ultra-modern, generously dimensioned cellar building, which was inaugurated in 1987. Two decades later, shortage of space again drove further investment in the future of the company when, in 2007, the Family Kracht purchased land on which to build a new head office complete with wine boutique and storage room. In this cutting-edge building, sophisticated technology keeps the conditions for storing wine as perfect as those that prevail in age-old, rocky wine cellars. At Baur au Lac Vins, innovation and tradition continue to work hand in glove.
* Paraphrased from Lütolf, Alois: "Tales, Customs and Legends from Central Switzerland", Lucerne, 1865, page 149.