The Wine Region
The Lavaux, a subregion of Vaud, extending from Lausanne to Vevey-Montreux is a beautiful area overlooking Lake Geneva.
It is home to breathtaking terraced vineyards and in 2007 were the first vineyards to obtain UNESCO world heritage status. It is that iconic.
Lavaux is Chasselas land. Tasting Chasselas in the different regions is an adventure by itself. The fresh and fruity white wine is particularly sensitive to the character of the soil it finds itself in - transparent to Terroir, as we say. The wine will taste different depending on where it is grown and people in Vaud all learn to recognise regions and even villages, in the glass.
Vineyards in this area are documented all the way back to year 900 AD. Lavaux is also the home of Dézaley (where Chasselas grape is said to be at its best). Its terraces cling to the abrupt slopes between Epesses and St Saphorin, which overhang the Lake. Lavaux covers around 21% of the Vaud and has some very important appellations, Dézaley being one and St. Saphorin the other.
In Lavaux, it is said that the sun shines three times - on the vines, directly, from the lake which reflects it upon the vineyards and from the stone walls supporting the vineyards and releasing the heat at night.
Its AOCs are Lutry, Villette, Epesses, Dezaley, Grand Cru, Calamin Grand Cru, Saint-Saphorin, Chardonne, Vevey-Montreux.
Besides Chasselas, red wines from the Gamay and the Pinot Noir varieties represent about a quarter of production.
- 5% of national production.
- Cultivated area, 760 ha approximately .
- 65% white and 35% red.
- Average 20.3°C in summer and a minimum 2.2°C in winter.
- Sun exposure,1800 hours per year.
- Average annual rainfall,1200mm with rainy days.
- Lowest elevation 375 metres, highest elevation 750 metres.
- Soils are moraine with varied soil compositions: gravel, marl and clay. Dezaley is distinguished by the presence of puddingstone.
Vaud’s climate is heavily dictated by the waters of Lake Geneva, which alleviate the spring frosts and reduce the summertime highs to around 86°F (30°C). As the sun passes over the long, thin lake during the day, a great deal of light is reflected up to the vineyards above, many of which are terraces carved into the south-facing slopes. This temperate climate and high luminosity is the secret behind the reliable Vaud terroir, even if relatively high rainfall does dampen conditions slightly.
Moraine with varied soil compositions: gravel, marl and clay. Dezaley is distinguished by the presence of puddingstone.
Lavaux Wine Grapes
Lavaux was once part of Fribourg and Gruyere and there is a definitive influence on the cheese side.
Filets de Perche: Perch was a very exclusive Victorian delicacy and it is possible that the early English tourists brought it to the attention of the Swiss, but it is now a cherished staple along the lakes.
Whether dusted with flour and fried in sweet butter à la meunière, or sautéed in a simple white wine sauce, this local fish has a ubiquitous place on every lakeside restaurant menu. The filets are small and labour intensive to prepare. There is a reason folks order it year round - when served with thin, crispy frites (alumettes) and washed down with a chilled Chasselas your taste buds will find themselves in seventh heaven.
The Swiss eat more Perch than the lakes can supply, so it is imported all the way from Ireland and the lakes of eastern Europe. Alas, it is near impossible to get small perch filets of the right kind in England.
Desserts here are some of the best, and most unusual in the country.
Le Bouchon Vaudois: A candy shaped as a wine cork created in order to become an iconic specialty of Vaud. First created in 1948 Le Bouchon Vaudois is a registered trademark and only members of the Waldensian Society and French-speaking patron bakers/confectioners can make it. (In my opinion there are better things to try in the bakeries and chocolatiers in Vaud.)
The Carac is a miniature pie filled with dense chocolate ganache and glazed with neon green icing.
Gâteau à la raisinée or Gâteau au Vin Cuit - technically this is borrowed from Fribourg next door but it's been in Vaud so long it is now native. A pie made from a thick syrup of reduced pear or apple juice, this is a must try.
Places to Eat
Vaud has a ridiculous number of starred restaurants, and many of the restaurants in the villages serve excellent food, especially on La Côte
All of these will require reservation well in advance.
Le Raisin, Cully
Places to See
Vineyards of Lavaux: The first vineyard to be given UNESCO World Heritage status. Take the little train, walk a bit, and visit the vinorama
Tramping with Charlie Chaplin: Vevey commemorates its celebrated citizen in bronze at its lake rose garden and has a museum in his honour at his house in Corsier.
The grape escape: From La Côte to Chablais, vineyards and wine cellars allow you to taste and explore Swiss wines.
Lausanne: Its cathedral, its old town with its bustling squares and narrow streets, and numerous museums. Stop at Place de la Palud to watch the clock of independence, with metal clockwork animation and, of course, a song about winemakers.
Montreux: On the sun-drenched Riviera, with its magnificent backdrop of the Alps and the famous Château de Chillon. Its restaurants, its stores and its casino have plenty to offer you if you like entertainment, good food or shopping. Obviously, also, the unmissable Jazz Festival each July. But also, go upward, as these steep "pre alps" are gorgeous and you can take the train up three different ways.
Cruise: Take a romantic cruise on one of the CGN paddle steamers that ply their way across Lake Geneva, some of which were built way back at the start of the 20th century (La flotte Belle Epoque).
Steam Trains: Climb from Montreux to the Rocher de Naye.
Swiss Wine Regions