Hans-Peter Schmitt
Valais, Switzerland

We drove high into the Swiss Alps to the tiny village of Arbaz to meet Hans-Peter Schmidt of Mythopia. Once a hostile monoculture, the vineyards today are nothing short of paradise and it was fascinating to see nature so alive. Flowers and fruit trees grow among the vines with numerous species of birds and butterflies supporting a rich ecosystem.

3.5 hectares of grapes grow at an altitude of 800–900 metres on steep slopes facing some of the highest peaks in the Swiss Alps. This is a small-scale production, and Hans-Peter and Romaine Schmidt both have other jobs to support their work with soil health and wine.

Herbs and plants grow between the vines and act as natural fertilisers which provide ground cover and give the previously depleted soil a new lease of life. Rather than engaging in intensive farming, Hans-Peter chose to take out every other row of vines and plant alternative flora in between, encouraging biodiversity in the place of monoculture.

In the cellar, the approach is as hands off as it gets. Almost all the Mythopia wines* follow the same process: whole bunches of grapes, still on the stem, spend 9 months in airtight steel tanks (a kind of carbonic maceration). The grapes are then pressed and poured into old oak barriques for 2 ½ to 3 years of ageing. Pressing of the new wines and bottling of the older vintages take place at the same time, so the barrels are never left empty. 

During the ageing process the wine is never tasted, the plug is never opened, and the barrels are not topped up. The only air contact occurs through the wood of the barrel, resulting in a low, slow exchange. After approximately 3 years, the wines are tasted and it is decision making time. Most are bottled, some are given more time to become balanced.

With the exception of Blue Velvet, the Pinot Noir wines are harvested from different plots and kept separate for both pressing and ageing. Once the wines have aged for 2.5–3 years, barrels are selected and allocated based on the character of the wine inside - a process which requires a lot of imagination. 

We left Mythopia incredibly happy and touched by such a beautiful place, where nature and wine receive both space and trust. The results are speaking for themselves.

*Exceptions to this method are noted on the individual wine texts.

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