Valais is the largest wine region and appellation in Switzerland, accounting for a third of the country’s total wine production. The vineyards of Valais extend for over 100 kilometers along the Rhone river. The location of the vines means that they are well exposed, producing some of the best quality Swiss wines. The Valais vineyards are planted in such a way that they penetrate the lateral valleys at some of the highest vine altitudes in Europe. Valais produces a range of complex red, white, and grand cru wines. The region is a paradise for wine lovers and the perfect wine tourism destination.
Excellent Wines from the Largest Winemaking Region in Switzerland
The Valais winemaking region of Switzerland is the largest in the country, and its wines account for a third of the country’s total wine production. The vineyards of Valais are planted on the extremely well-exposed slopes of the Rhone River valley. The planted area extends from the village of Salquenen in the east to the city of Martigny in the west. In many locations, the vines deeply penetrate the lateral valleys. An example of this can be found in Visperterminen where the vines are located at an altitude of 1100 meters – some of the highest vines in Europe.
The climate of the Valais region is sunny and dry and extremely favorable for the cultivation of vines. The region is protected by the Alps, giving it the driest climate of all of the Swiss winemaking regions. The maturation of the grapes is strongly influenced by the Foehn, a warm wind that blows on them.
The diverse range of soils across the Valais region means that the area produces a wide range of grape varietals and wines. The range of soil types is a result of a combination of geological forces, receding glaciers, and alluvial deposits of the Rhone and the Alps. The terroir of Valais has been described as some of the most dramatic in the world.
The types of wines produced in the Valais wine region include Chamoson, Conthey, Fully, Leytron, Saillon, Saint – Leonard, Saigesch, Saviese, Sierre, Vetroz, Ville de Sion and Visperterminen.
The oldest native grape in Valais include Amigne, Cornalin, Humagne and Reze. For some time now, these varietals have been overlooked in favour of more contemporary international varietals. In response to this, many local wine makers and producers have made a concerted effort to reintroduce these varietals by planting them in large numbers.
The Valais region is known for the production of Grand Cru, the name that is synonymous with rare and high-quality products. The production of Grand Cru is linked to prestigious vineyards and is representative of excellent terroirs.
Along with Grand Cru, Valais is becoming increasingly recognised for its excellent and robust red wines. These wines are most commonly made from indigenous grapes along with Pinot Noir. The most famous red of Valais is the Dole blend. White wines from Valais range from light and delicate to full and complex wines.
The Domaine Jean-Rene Germanier was established in 1896 with a passion for Swiss wines and the local terroir. The estate is one of the oldest in Valais and is a family-run business that uses only sustainable practices in its winemaking and production. The team at Domaine Jean-Rene Germanier welcomes visitors to taste their excellent estate wine and learn more about their innovative winemaking techniques that make it one of the most unique wineries in the region.
The Les Celliers De Sion is located in the heart of Valais and offers the area’s first complete wine tourism experience. At Les Celliers De Sion once can enjoy the Oenoparc which offers biking through the vineyards, a trip on the wine bus and stays in the hotel castle. The estate also offers various wine tasting experiences and educational tours with the local winemakers who are willing to teach guests about their craft and wine making methods used.
The Domain La Colombe is a family run winery located in the small village of Fechy in the hills of Vaud overlooking Lake Geneva. The winery is a family run business that uses only biodynamic approaches to wine making. The wines of Domain La Colombe are a true reflection of the soil from which they come and the love and passion of the wine makers. The estate welcomes visitors to learn more about their wine making techniques and taste some of the estate wines in the beautiful winery setting.
Fondation Pierre Gianadda – The Museum of Martigny
The Fondation Pierre Gianadda is a museum and exhibition centre located in Martigny, Switzerland. The foundation was founded in 1978 by Leonard Gianadda in memory of his brother Pierre who died in a plane crash in 1976. Permanent exhibitions that are hosted in the centre are the automobile museum, the Gallo-Roman Museum, the Louis and Evelyn Franck Collection, the Sculpture Park and Chagall Court. The Fondation Pierre Gianadda is open for visitors daily and also offers guided tours, educational experiences for students, a book shop and an indoor cafeteria and restaurant in the park.
Matterhorn Museu – The Official Museum of the Matterhorn
The Matterhorn Museum offers visitors insights into the development of the village of Zermatt, as well as the first ascent of the Matterhorn. A visit to the Matterhorn Museum takes one on a trip into the history of the mountain world to see how the people of Zermatt once lived. The details of the first ascent of the Matterhorn are explained in detail – an expedition that led to the loss of 7 climbers. When visiting the museum, one should be sure not to miss the multimedia room, the snapped rope from the first ascent, and the stone axe from the Neolithic Age. The museum building is an excellent example of contemporary architecture in Switzerland and offers audio guides in various languages. A trip to the Matterhorn Museum provides fun and education for guests of all ages.
Fondation Pierre Arnaud – The Home of European Art in Switzerland
The Fondation Pierre Arnaud was opened in 2013 and is considered to be the home of European art in Switzerland. The museum and exhibition space has 2 floors that host a range of summer and winter exhibitions. Along with this, some of the most significant Swiss collections of art are exhibited here in the autumn. Besides the art inside the Fondation Pierre Arnaud, the building itself it a sight to behold. The roof of the building is rectangular in shape and was designed by local Swiss architect Jean-Pierre Emery. On top of the roof are 84 solar panels which creates a shimmering façade and merges the building with the landscape on which it sits.
Travel TIP – Take a trip on the Gornergrat Train
The beautiful and scenic Gornergat train ride runs from the Zermatt village center to Gornergrat for a total time of 33 minutes. The views from the train ride are some of the most incredible mountain panoramas in the world, including a view of the famous Matterhorn. The Gornergrat train itself is a true masterpiece of 19th century engineering. The train service operates 365 days a year and from the viewing platforms there are 29 mountain peaks that can be admired. Wildlife can also be seen including chamois and marmots. The route of the train passes through the Gornergrat nature reserve and there are three hotels along the way for those who would like to stay overnight. In the summer there is a take off point for paragliders and don’t forget to see visit the highest shopping mall in Europe which is also a stop on the way.
The Great Valais Outdoors
The Valais region is a wonderland of natural beauty including glaciers, emerald green lakes, imposing mountains and rolling forests. The natural environment in Valais provides a natural playground during both the winter and the summer months, providing hours of entertainment for all who visit.
Aletsch Glacier – The Ice Giant of Aletsch
The Aletsch Glacier is a river of ice that extends for 23 kilometers from the Jungfrau region to the Massa Gorge in the Valais region of Switzerland. The total weight of the glacier is 11 billion tons and at its thickest point the ice is 900 meters thick. For visitors, the best way to access the Aletsch Glacier is to drive or take a train to Fiesch and then a gondola to Fiescheralp where one can begin to hike or walk on the glacier. There are hiking and trekking options for visitors of all experience levels and it is advised that this is done with an experienced guide. The glacier is a true vision of beauty and is best viewed from the Moosfluh, Eggishorn, Bettmerhorn and Hohfluh viewpoints.
Riffelsee Lake – The Mirror to the Matterhorn
The Riffelsee lake is located in Rotenboden and is most famous for its perfect reflection of the Matterhorn. The lake is located at 2700 meters above sea level inside a conservation area. Besides the incredible beauty of the lake, it is also incredibly popular because of its range of rare plants. The Riffelsee Lake is 100 meters long and 50 meters wide and is situated alongside the Riffelhorn mountain. The best way to enjoy the lake is to take the footpath along its shores which is an easy walk for visitors of all fitness levels. During the walk stop at the Riffelberg Chapel for an excellent photo opportunity. For visitors who are looking for a truly magical experience, visit the Riffelsee Lake at sunrise when it’s clear waters best reflect the orange tinted peak of the Matterhorn.
Furka Pass – The Pass that Links Valais and Uri
The Furka Pass is a mountain pass that links the region of Valais to the adjacent region of Uri. The pass is part of the spectacular Three-Pass Ride which takes one through the Furka, Grimsel, and Susten Pass. When traveling over the pass, approximately three kilometers from the mountain ridge there are some of the best views of the Rhone Glacier. At the foot of the pass is the Grand Hotel Glacier du Rhone which is also the station of the Furka Pass steam train. At this point, there is a 30-minute hiking trail that allows visitors the chance to experience the pre glacier area and the local flora. The best way to enjoy the Furka Pass is to ride the road by car, mountains bike, motorbike or with the Alpine PostBus.
The Local Cuisine of Valais
The Valais region is the home of some of the finest Swiss cuisine and is very rich in culinary traditions. Many believe that the rich culinary life in Valais is thanks to the famous Cesar Ritz who founded the Ritz hotels and who spent much of his life in Valais.
Raclette – The Dish Invented by the Swiss Mountain Shepherds
Raclette is considered the national dish of Switzerland. The dish shares its name with a Swiss cheese, the appliance for making the dish and a full dining experience! In Valais, Raclette is one of the most popular dishes across the region. It is also here that the dish was invented by the local shepherds in the Alps. Raclette is a dish of melted cheese that is then scraped and eaten in various forms. The cheese can be melted by the fireplace or using appliance such as a raclette melter or a raclette grill. Once the cheese is melted and scraped, it is usually served with roasted potatoes, vegetables, cold meats, pickles, onions and bread. Raclette is the perfect dish to share on a cold winter’s night and paired with a crisp white wine or a traditional Swiss liqueur.
Tomato Fondue – A twist on the Classic Swiss Fondue
For many locals of the Valais region, tomato fondue is believed to be the best variety of fondue in Switzerland. This dish is native to Valais and is made with tomatoes or tomato paste, garlic, white wine, shallots, butter and grated cheese. Traditionally the fondue is eaten with potatoes instead of bread that is used with cheese fondue. Tomato fondue is the perfect dish for an evening spent with friends in the crispy Valais winter.
Walliser Trockenfleisch – The Delicacy of Valais
Walliser Trockenfleisch is a meat delicacy that is made with beef from cattle raised exclusively in the Valais region. To make the dish, meat is taken from the legs of the cattle. This meat is then salted, seasoned with herbs and spices, and hung to dry in the cool mountain air. After drying for up to 6 weeks, the meat develops a distinctive mold on its surface which adds to its unique flavour. When the meat is ready, it takes on a purple and red colour and the fat content becomes extremely low. Walliser Trockenfleisch is traditionally eaten sliced with rye bread and a glass of the finest Swiss wine.
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Soil: Diverse soils influenced by geological changes, glaciers & alluvial deposits