Yes, you read that right. Constantly overshadowed by the famed wines of its neighbors, this summer, Switzerland is taking the lid off some of its best-kept secrets: its superb pinot noirs, gamarets and other homegrown tipples, in a festival that only happens once every 20 years.
Think wine tastings, live music, parades, costume parties and cellar tours with enough culture and tradition that the three-week event is a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage that unfolds amid the vineyard terraces of Vaud.
What’s the story
The Winegrowers’ Festival in Vevey, or the Fête des Vignerons if you will, is an event that pays tribute to the winemaking traditions of Switzerland. It was started by the Brotherhood of Winegrowers in 1797 and, over the centuries, evolved from a one-day feast into a three-week celebration that kicks off with an inaugural show of more than 20 performances. It can easily rival an Olympic opening ceremony, and that’s the least we can say about it, carried off by some 5, 000 local actors and artists.
Why should I go
When it comes to celebrating the tradition of winemaking, forget France and Italy; it’s the Swiss who really know how to throw a party, in a charming little town of less than 20,000 on Lake Geneva. For each festival, an arena is built, and this year’s 20,000-seat and 14,000 m2 open-air one is the town’s largest yet. But that’s not the only reason to go. The festival- its size and bacchanalian revelry aside- is a rarity, happening only once in a generation, with an interpretation of centuries-old traditions- think pop-up wine-tastings, restaurants and terraces serving specialities from the region, pageant parades and performance spaces dotted around an already pretty town where Charlie Chaplin spent the last 27 years of his life….What’s not to love?
What’s the 19-century palace you’re talking about
Tickets for the Fête des Vignerons went on sale mid-September 2018, but the Beau-Rivage Palace, just a short boat ride away (in Lausanne), has tickets (a limited number of them) reserved to guests at the preferential rate of CHF 676 for:
- 2 tickets to the Winegrowers’ Festival
- 2 return boat transfers to Vevey
- And a bottle of wine in your room
Then, of course, the hotel itself, set on ten acres of parkland overlooking Lake Geneva, is reason enough to fly out here. A Belle Époque dream come true, it’s where Lord Curzon and Benito Mussolini signed the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, and the sense of history is palpable in every detail, from the Art Nouveau rooms with Oriental carpets and cathedral ceilings, to the immaculately manicured gardens with their piqued tent tops, perfect for alfresco lunches to views of the aquamarine waters of the lake.
That’s all good and well, but I am not a wine fan
Even if you’re not a wine lover, the Fêtes Des Vignerons is a lavish, once-in-a-generation affair no one should miss. For a start, there is the setting of it, which is Vevey’s picturesque location. Then, of course, the festival is steeped in Swiss culture and culinary prowess, so even if you’re not into wine, there’s a lot to do here, from cheese tastings to tours of Chaplin’s World and Nest, a museum dedicated to Nestlé, which is headquartered in Vevey.
See you in Lausanne from July 18th to August 11th…