The 1977 Fête de Vignerons Photo: © Confrérie des Vignerons
This month, the small Swiss town of Vevey welcomes a big party: the three-week Fête des Vignerons, a festival that has been held only four or five times a century since 1797 (the last one was in 1999). Beginning July 18, around 400,000 oenophiles will land on the shore of Lake Geneva, where more than 6,000 performers put on daily parades, concerts, and theatrical shows that celebrate the history of winemaking, in an arena that could easily hold the town’s entire population (roughly 19,000).
The festival’s true headliner, though, is the surrounding Lavaux wine region, which is renowned for the terraced vineyards (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) that climb the mountains around the lake and produce flinty, crisp chasselas (the area’s signature grape) and elegant pinot noir. Whether you’re attending the Fête or not, you’ll need to visit to try them, as only about 1 percent of Swiss wine gets exported. Here, a quick guide to Lavaux.
The premier option in Vevey is the 150-year-old Grand Hôtel du Lac Vevey, a five-star lakeside property with elegant interiors by designer Pierre-Yves Rochon. Don’t miss German chef Thomas Neeser’s Michelin-starred restaurant, Les Saisons, which showcases local wines. ghdl.ch
Saint-Saphorin’s L’Auberge de l’Onde is co-owned by Côte d’Ivoire native Jérôme Aké Béda, who was Gault & Millau’s Best Swiss Sommelier in 2015. Needless to say, the classic brasserie cuisine (beef tartare, veal with sage) comes with spot-on pairings. Keep an eye out for Aké Béda’s thrice-yearly winemaker dinners. aubergedelonde.ch
Wineries here are often small, family-run operations with irregular hours, so it’s best to book in advance. For a quintessential Lavaux experience, schedule a tasting on the gorgeous outdoor terrace at the nearly 500-year-old Béat-Louis Bujard Vins, which produces some of the country’s best chasselas. bujard.ch
For starters, Aké Béda recommends three outstanding 2015 vintages: the Blaise Duboux Dézaley AOC Grand Cru, Haut de Pierre (slight almond scent on the nose, excellent minerality, pairs with fish); the Les Frères Dubois De la Tour Dézaley-Marsens Grand Cru, Vase n°4 (hints of apple, peach, and pear; subtle touches of honey in the finish; pairs with shellfish and lobster); and the Louis Philippe Bovard Cuvée Louis Pinot Noir–Merlot–Syrah (an unusual red blend with understated floral notes; pairs with fowl).