When you think of wine, Switzerland is perhaps not the first country that pops into your mind, is it?
Yet, wine bottles from as early as the 2nd century BC has been found here, so historians know wine has been produced in this land-locked mountainous country since Roman times, at least. The country’s largest continuous wine region is at Lavaux, dramatically set on the hills along Lake Geneva. In the small villages between Lausanne and Montreux you’ll find rank after rank, on both sides of the railway tracks – wine ranks with views of Lake Geneva.
The Lavaux Panoramic train can take you through this Swiss wine country, but these villages – St Saphorin, Pully, Lutry, Villette, Cully – are best explored by bike – or on foot. The excellent Terrasses de Lavaux hiking trail from medieval St Saphorin to Lutry is highly recommended.
One early evening in May, I took the train from Montreux to Cully, about half way into the trail. For the next few hours, I wandered among the vines. After a while the sun set above the wine ranks at the lake’s edge. I was all alone and it was a strangely tranquil and beautiful experience.
The historic vineyard landscape has placed Lavaux on the ubiquitous world heritage list. In addition to the vines, the villages with narrow streets and old houses – some from as far back as the 16th century – are absolutely charming. This is a place where you should take your time, stop by the wine cellars and sample the goodies. The main grape in Lavaux is the Chasselas. Try it once – or twice – or even three times along your hike. The steep landscape of the trail might even become easier.
Lavaux, vineyard terraces is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Here are more UNESCO World Heritage sites I’ve visited around the world.