LAVAUX: one of the largest wine regions in Switzerland!
On the one hand, the calm and crystalline waters of Lake Léman; On the other, a steep terrain on which numerous vineyards – almost hanging on the stone slopes – share space with picturesque villages, very narrow staircases and small paths that allow the visitor to appreciate the place from different angles. In the background, the breathtaking view of the French mountains. And to complete the whole landscape, wine, lots of wine! That’s Lavaux, a place you won’t miss in Switzerland.
Considered a Unesco cultural heritage (“Natural Landscapes” category) since 2007, Lavaux is one of the largest wine regions in Switzerland.
The technique known as “Terraceamento” (use of a lot of labor and little mechanization) allows the region to produce one of the best Swiss white wines, robust and mineralized, made with a type of grape called “Chasselas”.
The region is privileged by the abundant presence of the sun. The cultivation of the grape is influenced by three different sources of heat: sunlight; the reflection of the sun’s rays in the lake and the heat produced by the reflection of the sun on the stone walls of the terraces.
For this reason the region is also known as the “Country of the Three Suns” (Pays de trois soleils).
Lavaux is composed of eight productive regions, each distinguished by a different type of wine: (1) Lutry; (2) Villette; (3) Epesses; (4) Calamin Grand Cru; (5) Dézaley Grand Cru; (6) St-Saphorin; (7) Chardonne and (8) Vevey-Montreux.
Where it is and when to go?
The Lavaux Region comprises an area of 830 hectares on the steep slopes of the Canton of Vaud, between the cities of Lausanne and Vevey.
The best time of year to visit the region is from April to October, when the temperature is milder and the days very sunny. The months of September and October are also a special time to visit the region. It is at this time that the leaves of the vines gain a yellow-orange tone that leaves the look of the place simply magnificent.
According to some residents, if you are around during the winter and the sun comes out after a snowfall, the view is great and the ride will be worth it as well. But if the day is gray, better choose another destination.
How to get in the Lavaux Region?
Getting to Lavaux is very simple and can be done in several ways:
- By car: to reach the region, you must use the E62 (Autoroute du Rhône) and follow the signs in the direction of Belmont, Lutry, Chexbres or Vevey. Either exit allows access to the vineyards. There are five parking areas (Cully, Lutry, Vinorama, Chexbres or Vevey) where you can leave the car and walk a little on the trails or simply enjoy the scenery. Just follow the signs;
- By bus: from Lausanne you can use bus number ‘9’ towards Lutry or the number ’66 ‘towards Grandvaux. From Pully, the bus is the number ’47’, which goes towards Grandvaux. Schedule information can be found here;
- By boat: as the region of Lavaux is on the edge of Lake Leman, you can get there by boat. If the day is sunny, it will undoubtedly be a wonderful walk. The cities where you can disembark are Lutry, Cully or Rivaz-St-Saphorin. More information can be found here;
- By train: from Geneva there is no direct train to the vineyards of Lavaux. To get to any small town in the region you need to make a connection at Lausanne station. The trip lasts for about an hour. Check the times and values on the SBB page;
By the winery…
Despite being a fairly steep region, the vineyard tour is very easy and can be done by anyone with minimal physical training. The route is considered of medium difficulty with some stretches a little more inclined, but all the trails are paved and of easy access. For those who prefer a quieter and more comfortable ride, I suggest you use the train. But attention, the tourist trains that make the route of the vineyards only work from April to November.
- Lavaux Express: a rubber ‘train’ that runs three or four times a day (depending on the month). There are three route options, starting in the cities of Lutry or Cully. One of them includes wine tasting. Click here for more information.
- Panoramic Lavaux: the scenic train runs on weekends. The starting point is the city of Chexbrex and during the tour are visited the cities of Chardonne, Rivaz and St-Saphorin. In the period from 12/06 to 24/09 the trip is also held on Wednesdays and the route is slightly different. Click here for more information.
But if you like a bit more adrenaline it is worth doing the bike ride. You can rent a bike at the Lausanne and Montreaux train stations and take the tour on your own way or even take the tour offered by guided tour agencies and some tasting options. Wines are included on the tour.
We prefered to take the walking tour, about 18km, from Cully to Saint-Saphorin. Check out our adventure.