Every September, the Valais region of Switzerland, in the heart of the Swiss Alps, holds a unique event, Marche des Cépages, or “walk of the grape varieties.” It is a celebration of Swiss wine, folklore and food, and not one to miss for any traveller who is interested in wine and gastronomy.
The walking trail takes you through vineyards and past many homes of the winemakers
I had the privilege to attend this “walk of the grape varieties” event earlier this month. Since Swiss wine is hard to get your hands on outside of Switzerland (because they export so little of it, less than 2%), I was thrilled to have a chance to sip on the local wines and learn about the grape varietals, terroir and the industry. But mainly, it was loads of fun.
We started off in the morning…how early is too early to start drinking wine?
This isn’t even the most stunning view (it rained too hard to get great shots of the most picturesque area, sad!)
The one day event is held along an 8 km walking trail between the communities of Sierre and Salgesh, that takes you “hiking” through more than 40 vineyards. The trail goes along the Château de Villa and Wine Museum in Sierre and the Wine Museum in Salquenen. People attend the event from across the country and around the world. To walk the entire 8 kms, it would take about 2.5 hours.
Local Valais winemaker giving us a taste of her wine
Here is her wine, along with grapes from her family-owned vineyard
Another local winemaker and his daughter who accompanied us on behalf of the tourist board
Throughout the day, approximately 50 Swiss wine makers from the Valais region set up tables and booths, offering tastings of their wines. Along the route, there are offerings of many culinary delights, such as the Swiss traditional raclette (melted cheese served with a potato and pickles), local food from Valais region, both traditional and contemporary music and entertainment.
Famous Swiss raclette cheese
Another local wine. It was raining so hard we had to park ourselves at a spot that had an awning.
Our day began at the famous 16th century Château de Villa, the “temple” of wine in Valais, which has a restaurant and wine cellar (and is famous for its raclette). This is where we picked up our festival passes, a wine glass for sampling, and tickets for wine and food.
An organ grinder! How could this not put a smile on your face?
Unfortunately, it rained for the entire day (for some reason every time I attend a festival in Switzerland it rains). But people, and loads of them, came out regardless of the rain. There were families and young children, with some mothers pushing prams.
Another one of many stations set up by local producers
The 2018 festival will take place on September 8th. For more information and tickets, visit Marche des Cépages.
About Valais: The Valais (known as ‘Wallis’ in German) is absolutely a canton (or province) in southern Switzerland, and is absolutely stunning. The famous Matterhorn and is here, as well as upscale Alpine resorts, such as Zermatt, and many vineyards and orchards are found along the Rhône River. In addition to being Switzerland’s home to many vineyards, it is filled with fruit orchards. Rare spices are grown here, including saffron. The mountains surround you, as far as the eye can see.
Getting there: The closest major airport is Geneva (179 kms). Also Bern airport is close (180 km). If you are coming in to Geneva, best way is to take the train from Geneva (airport or city centre) to Sierre (2.5 hrs). To drive is (2 hrs).
What are your favourite wine festivals? I would love to hear from you. Tweet to me at @Shannon_Skinner.
Ground Tours and accommodations arranged by Valais Tourism. Swiss Travel Pass provided by Swiss Tourism. Opinions are my own.
Shannon Skinner is an award-winning broadcaster, international speaker, author and travel journalist. She is based in Toronto. Watch her interviews at ExtrarodinaryWomenTV.com. For information on her speaking engagements, contact her at Shannon (at) ShannonSkinner.com.