Vinea, the Swiss wine fair that is the country’s biggest outdoor wine festival, opens its doors Friday evening in Sierre and is expected to pull in some 10,000 people during the two days when 1,200 different wines are on offer from 150 wineries.
And if you’re heading for either event, you’ll be in a good position to take a ride on the extension of the renovated and beautiful Furka steam train that runs between Realp and Oberwald, past the Rhone glacier and over the high mountain pass. The new stretch from Oberwald to Realp opened two weeks ago.
An alternative (or combine the two) is to rent a special tourism offer electric car in Meiringen, canton Bern, a town made famous by the death of Sherlock Holmes at its Reichenbach Falls, and drive over the magnificent Grimsel pass. From there you can glimpse the Rhone glacier and watch the steam train heading up the nearby Furka pass, or hop on the train.
You can also do the trip starting in the Goms Valley (Oberwald or other towns) and head to Meiringen. The nearly silent cars cost CHF60 for the day and, of course, there’s no fuel to pay for.
European Masters golf tournament 2-6 September
Just above the city in the resort of Crans-Montana, the Omega European Masters golf tournament, which opens 2 September, will be well underway; it continues until Sunday.
Weather in the resort is expected to be mostly sunny, with temperatures between 7 and 17C, so take along a jacket. Children under 16 are free and tickets for adults are CHF60-70, with weekend special offers. The number of tickets is not limited, so there is no problem buying at the entrance to the golf course. This is Switzerland’s spot on the European tournament.
Vinea opens a day earlier, features more Swiss wines and special guest Hermitage
The main street of Sierre is taken over by Vinea as of Friday evening, with a line of white tents housing 150 Swiss winemakers. The purpose of the fair is to bring together the public and producers in a relaxed setting to encourage consumers to learn more about Swiss wine. This is wine at its educational best: drunken visitors are rare, producers are keen to answer questions, even at the most basic level, and there is no sellilng so it’s pressure-free. If you want to buy wine, you’ll have to order it and have it shipped or pick it up later. Since many of the country’s wineries are small family operations whose cellars are open to visitors by appointment this offers a rare chance to sample their wines without having to call ahead, and to compare different wineries’ products.
Vinea has several new features this year, starting with a chance for the public to sample the winning wines of the major international wine competition, the Mondial du Pinot Noir, Friday evening. The awards ceremony for the Mondial is always held at the start of Vinea, but the wines are available to the public for the first time this year.
Vinea, which began as a wine fair for canton Valais producers, has grown into a Swiss-wide non-profit organization that organizes the Mondial du Pinot Noir as well as Switzerland’s other major international wine competition, the Mondial du Merlot, among other wine-related activities. As a result, the number of wineries from all of Switzerland has grown. Two special guests this year are Ticinowine, representing canton Ticino’s wines, and Châteauneuf du Pape, one of the best appellations from France’s Côtes du Rhône wine region.
For those who have attended the event in the past, the layout will be slightly different this year, with the new plaza in front of the Hotel de Ville included. The food areas at the centre of the fair have disappeared, with local restaurants now working as partners with Vinea.
Best of all, sun and temperatures of 23C on Saturday and Sunday.
Tip: do spit out the wines most of the time and drink plenty of water, available from fountains throughout the fair.