Vineyards, Switzerland

 

Some people may not readily associate Switzerland in their mind with wine, but in fact it has over 15,000 hectares (more than 37,000 acres) of vineyards under cultivation. The country produces wines from a variety of grapes and both red and white wine is drunk – most of it in the home country. Most of the vineyards are in the west and south and well known varieties of grape, such as Pinot noir, Gamay and Merlot are grown to make red wines; the whites include Chardonnay, Sylvaner and Pinot gris, but also a less well-known white grape called Chasselas, which makes a full, dry and fruity wine.

Aigle is a wine village in the Canton of Vaud in Switzerland. It is not unreasonable to call it that, since it is completely surrounded by vineyards and the population was only just under 10,000 at the last count. It is also home to the “Vine and Wine Museum” (Musée de la vigne et du vin) which is housed in the castle (open all year but closes at 16.00 in the winter months). Here 17 rooms display everything to do with wine and its culture, from casks and winepresses, to the etiquette surrounding this ancient social drink. Some packages include entry to the château, a guided tour, and a wine tasting at the end in the castle cellars. What is perhaps unusual about Aigle’s situation is the presence of the alps as a dramatic background to the vineyards. Not far away are hot springs where you can swim in a pool at Lavey-les-Bains; there is also an amusement park for the family (closed Mondays and Tuesdays except in school holidays). Apart from those two, the castle and a couple of gardens, there’s not much to do in Aigle except try the wine, eat good food, and maybe walk around the village enjoying the view.

Some Michelin Guide restaurants in or near Aigle are: La Pinte du Paradis with its terrace overlooking vineyards and mountains; and La Roserie, in Yvorne (2.5 miles), a traditional restaurant with wood panelling inside and a pleasant garden outside. A little further out in Vouvry (4 miles) is Le Bistrot, a less formal alternative to the gourmet experience.

The Lavaux vineyards, themselves a UNESCO World Heritage Site and therefore protected, surround Cully, another wine village in the Canton of Vaud. But this is a much smaller community than Aigle’s, having only 1,752 inhabitants in 2009; nearly a quarter of these citizens are employed in agriculture, for in addition to the wine they rear livestock and grow crops. In this Lavaux wine growing region the vines are grown on terraced hillsides stretching 30 km (19 miles) along the south facing (ie northern) shore of Lake Geneva. Many hiking trails (for example the one from Saint-Saphorin to Lutry) pass among the vineyards. But even more than in Aigle, the sole entertainment revolves around food and wine, such as the tastings on offer at Vino de Testuz and Les Freres Dubois. Apart, that is, from the annual Cully Classique festival, held in the village in the latter part of June; last year more than 250 classical music artists performed out of doors or in the village’s wine cellars. Oh, and also apart from Cully’s other music festival, this time for jazz lovers, held in the spring.
Around Lake Geneva there are many fine restaurants, some with Michelin stars and some GaultMillau recommended.
For one of the best restaurants in the world, try the Restaurant de l’Hotel de Ville in Crissier.
Also serving haute cuisine is L’Ermitage run by the Ravet family at Vufflens-le-Château.
For something more traditional, try Le Café du Cerf in Rougemont for home cooking, with cheese dishes in a chalet setting.

Hallau is an old market town in the canton of Schaffhausen in the north of Switzerland. Many of the 2,000 people who live there work in the wine industry, the first vineyards having been planted in the 13th century when the Benedictine monastery in the village owned about two thirds of the land. Hallau lies at an elevation of 421m (1,381 feet) in the Klettgau Valley, at the foot of the Hallauerberg, and the grape grown is the pinot noir. The village has its own wine museum, open only on Sunday afternoons from May to October but excluding July. The museum’s exhibits depict viticulture through the ages, and there are guided tours and wine-tastings. In October “Autumn Sundays” are held with entertainment in the streets and wine properties in the vicinity opening their doors to visitors. Those who wish to get close to the vines can take the “path of meditation”, a 2.5km circular walk through the vineyards above Hallau, with Biblical texts on panels in case the beautiful views of the village and nearby Unterklettgau are not inspiration enough. Another tourist attraction is the glassblowing gallery in the village (‘Schauglasblaserei’; open Mon-Fri afternoons for demonstrations and sales of glass works of art).
Eating places in Hallau include the Trattoria La Calabrisella for Italian food in an intimate setting (open 7 days a week for lunches and evening meals); the Restaurant Angel, which can seat up to 65 in a stylish, candle-lit setting; and the Restaurant Gemeindehaus Hallau, serving meat, fish and pasta on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings, and all day on Saturdays and Sundays.

In Malans, (in the Swiss canton of Graubünden; population 2,300), wine is only the second biggest industry, as more than half of the productive land in this part of the Rhine Valley is forested.
From Malans you can take a small gondola up to 1800m and then walk to the top of Vilan mountain in 2 hours. However the way is steep and demanding, and not suitable for children. The reward is the view: it is said you are able to see 638 peaks from the summit (2376m / 7,795 feet). A lot easier is the Wine Hiking Trail which takes you on foot, roller skates or bicycle through vineyards and picturesque villages all along the River Rhine.
There are only four places to eat in Malans. Swiss gourmet cooking is the fare at the Weiss Kreuz restaurant, with local specialities; Thai food is on offer at Chawi’s Malanser Stube; and the Gasthaus Krone (open Thurs to Tues for lunch and dinner) uses regional produce in a mixture of traditional and modern cooking styles. The final option is to eat at the Älplibahn (cable car station), where the food is simple but good, and the views are stunning.

Aigle
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Cully
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Hallau      
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Malans      
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