When you think of the great wine countries of Europe the first that comes to mind is probably France, followed by Italy and Spain.
When you think of the great wine countries of Europe the first that comes to mind is probably France, followed by Italy and Spain. But have you ever thought of Switzerland? It’s well known that the Swiss are great at keeping secrets, but could they keep somewhere this beautiful under wraps?!
Sitting along 30km of the Lake Geneva shore in Switzerland, the Lavaux region is a UNESCO world heritage site and must be one of the most beautiful wine-growing regions in the world. Walking amongst the incredible patchwork of vines it can often feel like you have the whole place to yourself. There are a number of small, quaint villages scattered throughout the region, each of which has its own selection of locally produced wines available to taste in a number of caveaux.
The landscape is incredible, and it is a testament to the Swiss way that this local wine produced in such an extreme environment is largely unknown outside of Switzerland. They make Swiss wine for Switzerland. There is not a single patch of land in this area that has not been cultivated, manicured and prepared precisely for the purpose of growing grapes. Stacks upon stacks of terraced vineyards rise out of Lake Geneva high toward the sky.
There a number of signposted hiking routes that make their way through the vines, up and down the terraces and along the lake. They are definitely the best way to explore Lavaux. I would recommend taking the train to one of the towns further up the terraces such as Grandvaux or Chexbres and then walking down through the vines toward St. Saphorin, the most beautiful and charming village you’ll find in Lavaux.
There is little shade and in the summer the heat can be overwhelming, so once you reach the bottom of the vineyards you can take a dip in the lake to cool off in one of the many public areas. They are fairly quiet and undeveloped, a great opportunity to set your towel down on some rocks and relax to the sound of water lapping up against the shore.
To be able to walk amongst these vines is an absolute pleasure. For me it’s one of the finest experiences you can have in Switzerland. The beauty of the vineyards created by the Swiss and nurtured by the natural environment, against the backdrop of Lake Geneva and the Alps is simply stunning.
Lavaux is accessible by train from either end of Lake Geneva. Trains from Geneva run to Lausanne where you’ll need to pick up a second onward train to Lavaux. There are two train lines, one that runs through the towns at the top of the vineyards such as Grandvaux and Chexbres, and a second that runs along the lake providing access to Rivaz and St. Saphorin. Walking routes amongst the vineyards are free to access and fairly well signposted. Most of the towns in the area have some form of public parking. Many of the wine-tasting caveaux are open only in the evening after 5pm, so this is a great time to visit.
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