This was a very wet weekend in Switzerland, which meant I pretty much had the vineyards to myself, nice for photos as long as you don’t insist on sun in your images. This area is to the east (upriver side of the village) of the well-known Sierre-Salgesch vineyard trail, 6 km and 2.5 hours, that links the two museums that together make up the Valais Musée du vin et de la vigne. The museum has just opened a new exhibit, “Ceci n’est pas une bouteille” (This isn’t a bottle), 2 May to 25 October.
It’s hard to believe at the moment, but this is one of Switzerland’s driest areas and in August the dry heat is impressive. To find myself alone here on a weekend is a rare thing!
Normally a place to hike, visit museums, cellars
The vines to the east make up the bulk of Salgesch’s impressive collection of vineyards. There are several renowned wineries here, including Nouveau Salquenen, the Diego Mathier family cellar – he was named Swiss Winemaker of the Year more than once; the Gregor Kuonen family, long known for its classy specialty wines; Vins des Chevaliers, which has just issued a new, white “Sherpa” wine as a mate to its famous red one, and several award-winning other cellars.
The village of 1,200 sits just above the Pfinge forest national park, a popular hiking area.
On a fine weekend you can combine walks in forest and along the river with vineyard walks. Note that the wild Rhone river area here is protected and you are asked to hike in organized groups to reduce the impact on wildlife and plants. A few area producers whose vineyards are on or near park land are partners with the park to produce “Vin du parc”.
Here’s a quiz photo for you: what do you notice about these vines and the way they are being managed – and what do you suppose is the reason? Afterwards you can peer at the vines with me as I trail around a bit in the rain. I ended up driving to the banks of the Rhone in Sierre to see the impact on the river – normally an elegant glacial green here, it was a muddy mass of swirling and fast-moving brown water, heading for Lake Geneva, then Geneva and France.
Salgesch (name in German; Salquenen in French) is famous for its Pinot Noirs, smooth and round thanks to the hot, dry sunshine and limestone pebbly slopes, which this grape loves. They account for 159 of the nearly 200 hectares of vine that make this the largest wine commune in the Upper Valais area.
The village sits on the remains of an ancient landslide and its limestone bed is unusual in that this type of soil is normally found 1,000 metres or more higher, where it would be too high to grow grapes in this area. Producers here banded together in 1988 to create a Salquenen Grand Cru.