Correction: my apologies, but a couple of the wineries listed below are not taking part in the open house days. At Henri Cruchon, where the winery was packed out Saturday morning, they explained that they are already so busy on Saturdays that they could only add to the crowd if they are sure of good weather. Satyr in Begnins is also not taking part. I suggest you doublecheck the list of wineries taking part (pdf), top left on the map,if you’re keen to visit a particular winery. The names below are happily good year round.
LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND – You’ll need to plan ahead to get the most out of Vaud’s winery open house days, simply because the canton is large and trying to cover all of the regions isn’t really practical in two days. Happily, they are sure to offer the same thing next year.
My suggestion is to start by reading the practical details here, then choosing one or at most two regions per day, not too far apart. For a second day of tasting I would head further afield, to compare two regions, for the wines vary enormously. All you have to do is look at a map to understand why, with some on hillsides that slope back gradually towards the Jura and others in tight sun-drenched terraces perched above Lake Geneva, while yet others have Alpine backdrops and some the softness of the countryside closer to Neuchatel, Fribourg and Bern.
Starting from Geneva and fanning out, here are the wine regions in Vaud – note that the web site for the open house days provides a pdf list of all Vaud wineries that are open, on the site’s cantonal map page.
The size and complexity of the offer is too big to get into here, so let me simply say this: these hillsides are the birthplace of Chasselas, Switzerland’s famous white aperitif wine, and this is a must for tasters, but concentrate on comparing the differences.
Terroir, winemaker, style: they all have an impact and this is anything but a standardized product! But don’t overlook the reds, for there are splendid blends, Gamays and Pinot Noirs here.
Begnins, Domaine La Capitaine has one Vaud’s 11 new Grand Cru wines, and winemaker Reynald Parmelin has been Switzerland’s organic winemaker of the year for three years running. Down the road, at Le Satyre, You can’t go wrong here. Noémie Graf is young, energetic, creative and she is making some of Switzerland’s top award-winning Pinot Noir wines.
Bursins, Cave Beetschen, don’t let the sleek wine bar fool you: this is a family winery par excellence, with sensible prices and an extraoridnary collection. The energy and desire to improve are impressive here. Chateau Le Rosey is a beautiful spot, worth a visit for that alone, and owner Pierre Bouvier works closely with friend and neighbour Yves Parmelin, whose winery is also well worth a visit. Check out the velvety reds, mmm.
Echichens, above Morges by the hospital, is home to Henri Cruchon and family, and this is a must-stop. Henri is one of Switzerland’s top winemakers, a member of the Memoire des Vins Suisse, a delightfully generous man and the wines are exquisite. Some 20 grape variety, biodynamic and you’ll have trouble leaving, so schedule a return trip!
Fechy, I’ve written so much about this village I fear I’m repeating myself. Stop at Domaine La Colombe, where Raymond Paccot, one of the best winemakers in Switzerland bar none, makes one of my favourite white wines, a Pinot Gris. Down the road is the Kursner Brother wineries, with space or kids to play while you sample a wide range (try the bubbly).
Fully, I’m a huge fan of the Frères Dutry, whose beautiful Romaine line with Gamay and the inky Gamaret are complemented by a fine rosé.
Givrins, Philippe Bovet, one of the classiest and finest new winemakers around, who has a good understanding of what a new generatin is looking for. You can’t go wrong here.
Morges has a host of things going on, with discounts to the nearby iris gardens if you have a passport and beginner’s wine tasting sessions on the BAM train parked at the train station.
Nyon, most of the winemakers are coming together at the chateau, so you’ll have an easy time here.
Tartegnin is planning a cheese party for the weekend, to complement its wines, with some fine cheese on the menu, from Gruyere. You can do a shuttle loop to Mont-sur-Rolle, Rolle and Perroy, with a number of good wineries in each.
St-Prex, Domaine de Terreneuve, David Kind speaks English, sells his fine wines at prices that some would say are too low for the very good quality, and the setting, with 200- and 300-year-old trees, is magnificent. Peaceful, well worth a visit and a great address for future orders.
Côtes de l’Orbe and Bonvillars (2 regions) plus Vully
These are the wineries in the Yverdon area. A truly wonderful winery that is worth the trip is the Chateau de Valeyres, whose owner Benjamin Morel works with his childhood friend Frédéric Hostettler. The young duo are creative, talented and making a name for themselves in wine circles. is great fun as well and really wants to know what visitors think. If you can corner him for a minute you’ll learn a lot about wine. This is the soft side of Swiss scenery, with lovely rolling hillsides, nearby lakes and snowy peaks in the distance. Very, very pleasant.
Côtes de l’Orbe
Caves d’Orbes, Yves Monnier and the Chateau d’Eclépens, with the latter a member of the Clos, Domains & Chateaux group of very good wineries with historic homes. I particularly like some of the reds made by Francois and Georges de Coulon at the chateau, and the prices are a bargain for what you get. Francois speaks English and his enthusiasm for his wines is infectious; he is great fun as well and really wants to know what visitors think. If you can corner him for a minute you’ll learn a lot about wine.
This region is tiny and at the northeastern tip of Lake Neuchatel, so it would be easy to miss – but you shouldn’t miss it because Môtier has the Cru de l’Hôpital winery whose young winemaker Christian Vessaz has been catapulted into being called one of the best in the country. He’s a serious environmentalist and a perfectionist when it comes to making wines. I love his Pinot Gris and his red blend is beautiful. Someone to encourage, by all means.
If you haven’t heard of this yet, I would be very surprised. This hillside, now a Unesco World Heritage site, was spotted by monks more than 1,000 years ago as the perfect place for vineyards, and they were not wrong. The region is so dense with vineyards that I can’t begin to offer suggestions, except to say two I’ve loved lately have been Patrick Fonjallaz in Epesses and Domaine du Daley high up on the hillside in Lutry. And then there is Louis Bovard, whose wines are very special and exported to top restaurants around the world, in Cully. But I’m leaving out at least 100 great winemakers, I think!
Visiting Lavaux is all about exploring: the hillsides, the villages, the wines, the views. Just let yourself go.
This is the beautiful wine country around Villeneuve and Aigle, at the east end of Lake Geneva, with spectacular Alpine vistas behind the villages and towns. It is wine country par excellence and a good place to start seeing the impact of geography on wine. This is where the glaciers left their mark, where the Rhone meets Lake Geneva, and where more rain falls than in nearby Valais or along the Lavaux stretch above Lake Geneva.
You’ll find magnificent Chasselas wines here, and I suggest making tracks to the Artisans Vignerons Cooperative in Yvorne as well as Domaine de l’Ovaille in the same beautiful village. Don’t miss the Chateau d’Yvorne, justifiably famous for its wines. Shuttles between Aigle and Yvorne, both noted for their good restaurants, so build in lunch here.
Aigle is home to the old, large winery called Henri Badoux, famous for its Les Murailles Chasselas, a fine example of the minerality in this grape for which Vaud has a great reputation. Head winemaker Daniel Dufaux is the president of the Swiss Oenologists Association and the winery’s range is both large and very good. I like their Viognier, but definitely try some of the top of the line reds if you can.
Aigle has a very good wine museum at its Chateau and the village’s charming, winding little lanes among stone walls, moving out from the chateau, make for good walks (mostly flat). Expect plenty of music this weekend.There are plenty of small, good wineries here, one of which is run by mother-daughter team Christine and Stéphanie Delarze, whose tree-shaded garden alone is worth the visit, and Stéphanie speaks English. Ask her about the latest wine Dou-dou.
Villeneuve, at the tip of Lake Geneva, is celebrating its main festival of the year, with music all weekend, a big market with local products and its wines at the centre of the party.