The secret wine region you’ve never heard ofBy Katy
I love wine and I could probably call myself a wine buff if my many years of dedicated tasting (ie. cracking open a bottle at least once a week) count. Ahem. But I’d never tasted wine from Switzerland, hell, I’d never even known the Swiss produced wine!
So I was a little surprised that on my second day in Lausanne (catch up on day one here) I was going to try some of this secretive wine. They may not share that much of what they produce (apparently less than 2% gets exported) with the world but they sure know how to put on a show, especially when you find out the vineyards have been granted UNESCO status.
First up was a boat journey to travel down the stunning Lake Geneva to get to the village of Cully. It didn’t take me long to get settled in a deckchair on the open deck to top up my tan and watch the world go by.
The warm morning sun kissed my cheeks, the waves lapped around the hull and a nearby group of excitable children all talking in fast French was the only noise on this relaxing cruise. Until the huge paddle steam boat blew its horn every so often, letting off wispy trails of smoke, scaring the bejeezus out of me!
Around forty minutes later we pulled up to Cully where the view of lush green rolling hills, sunlight bouncing off the sparkling lake and randomly dotted quaint pointy roofed houses greeted us. It finally felt like I’d made it to the Switzerland I’d imagined in my mind.
With a quick wave goodbye the boat set sail once more and I made my way into the cute-as-a-button village to have a spot of lunch. Well, you can’t go to a wine tasting on an empty stomach, can you? Always drink responsibly, kids!
Does anyone else’s heart start beating faster whenever they see some adorable shutters? When I grow up I want to live in a house with shutters. And maybe a fountain. And definitely not far from a vineyard.
Lunch was served on a sun dappled terrace at Le Bistrot and lived up to the Swiss style of incredible local produce and friendly service. A platter of cheese with crusty bread to start, followed by creamy aubergine stuffed ravioli and finished with a cafe gourmand selection of mouth-watering puds and a sharp espresso.
Once fully fed and watered I meandered past the lake side to the home of Patricia, a charming woman with the cutest English accent, who had inherited her section of the giant vineyard that had been passed down through the years. Patricia and her husband run the Cave De Moratel and was going to give me a tour and let me sample some of this elusive Swiss wine. The vineyards here are all owned by local families and rarely get passed on to outsiders unless through death or a marriage.
Patricia also has a penchant for growing unusual pumpkins. I liked her very much.
Once I’d finished faffing with her humorous looking veg, her husband, Denis, drove us to their vineyard up the pretty but really steep winding roads. The Lavaux vineyard has a listed status by UNESCO World Heritage Site, something that Patricia explained was both a positive and a negative. As great as it was to welcome tourists she said that at times it did feel like they lived in a museum. It has been a hotspot for tourists, hikers and fans of wine who can ‘try before you buy’, who can easily get a miniature tourist train that runs through here or stretch those legs by going on one of the many wine trails/hiking routes.
It’s easy to see why the top dogs at UNESCO decided to place the prestigious title here. Lush green vines, rocky low walls and the sparkling lake for as far as your eye can see. Back in the 11th Century it was monks who set up the foundations for what we can see today, since then local wine enthusiasts have been growing the chasselas grape to enjoy, sell and educate others on.
Mid-way up the hillside Patricia and Denis had built a small outhouse with a table and wooden benches to give their guests a drink with a serious view. Sigh.
I got to pick some grapes off the vine to see if they were ready for the harvest which is only a few weeks away. In my view the sweet and juicy grapes looked ready to be sacrificed to make a cool glass of wine but Patricia reckoned a few more days were needed. There was a definite science to wine making and I’ve learnt that with my impatience I’d make a rubbish job of this!
Before we finished the whole bottle and fell asleep in the baking mid-day sun, we slugged some water and began making our way back down to her house. This time taking the scenic route. Through the haze bouncing off the lake you could just make out the jagged tips of the French Alps that sat opposite us.
I don’t think these photos do the vineyards justice, it was just so breathtakingly beautiful. I could wake up to this view every day and not get bored.
Patricia took me round her small but practical cellars and explained the process from harvesting the grapes to making the bottles of wine she had for sale.
I left with a whole new appreciation for the glass of wine I usually drink without thinking about. I also felt incredibly lucky to have been one of a small number of people ever to have tasted this elusive Swiss wine. Plus, this trip reinforced my love of pumpkins.