Valais wine from the foothills of the Himalayas

The spotlight is on the “Fifth Switzerland” this year at the Fête des Vignerons winegrowers’ festival in Vevey – the largest wine festival in Switzerland.

The Swiss winegrowing tradition is going from strength to strength, even on the steep flanks of the Yangtze Valley. Photo: donated

The Fête des Vignerons is a unique festival. It only takes place every 25 years or so, but has been in existence since the 17th century. And the festival has long since been about more than just wine – it is a cultural highlight for the entire region. Since 2016, the Fête des Vignerons has featured on the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage, and it was the first “living tradition” of Switzerland to even be included on this list.

This year, the festival organised by the local Confrérie des Vignerons (Winegrowers fraternity) is also placing the spotlight on the “Fifth Switzerland” by dedicating 25 July to the Swiss Abroad. Vevey is to become their capital for the day.

At the same time, people in Switzerland will learn more about Swiss citizens working abroad, such as winegrowers who press superb wine in their second homelands. Thanks to a collaboration between the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA) and Swiss Wine Promotion AG, Swiss winegrowers can present their creations on the lake platform.

Swiss winemakers from the traditional viticulture countries and regions of Australia, Argentina, Bulgaria, France, Italy, California and South Africa will travel to Vevey. However, the oenologist Yves Roduit is also looking for a way into the huge festival. Roduit, who was born in Valais, now produces around 15,000 bottles of wine a year in Tibet. He believes that the local environment – 2,200 metres above sea level – is so perfect that the grape variety Petite Arvine, which is native to canton Valais, could be planted there.

Yves Roduit emigrated to Tibet in 2014, not to become a Buddhist but rather to continue the viticulture originally brought to the region by Christian missionaries. It is a very poor area that has experienced little of China’s economic boom, says Roduit. He also views his involvement as a way to strengthen the local village community in the Yangtze Valley (Yunnan province). Roduit does not believe that he is anywhere near the end of his journey, and he is looking for investors to help him expand in stages. In his eyes, the terraced slopes in the Yangtze Valley are made for winegrowing. He wants to win over the people with his calling card: his wine.

Chinese wine is actually not as exotic as it may seem from a Swiss perspective. The country has long since been among the top-ten wine-producing nations in the world. The People’s Republic of China ranks sixth behind the leaders Italy, France, USA, Spain and Argentina in terms of the volume of wine produced (2018). With over one million hectolitres, Switzerland is in position 20.


“Fête des Vignerons”, 18 July to 11 August 2019:

Day of the Swiss Abroad:


Comments (1)
  • Alina Cabrera, Colonia Del Valle, Ville de Mexico, Mexique
    Alina Cabrera, Colonia Del Valle, Ville de Mexico, Mexique at 02.08.2019
    En Juillet 18 2019, a 23h, à bord du train Vevey - Montreux, j’ai parlé brièvement avec une vaudoise âgée de 90 ans, qui venait de voir sa quatrième Fête des Vignerons consécutive. Elle a pensé qu’elle ne devait plus allez au spectacle parce qu’elle était trop âgée, mais sa grande fille lui a offert l’entrée pour la convaincre d’y assister avec sa fille. Cette belle et gentille dame est paysanne, fille d’un vigneron vaudois qui a travaillé pendant plusieurs années dans une Vigne de la région. Quand elle était petite, elle a eu la tuberculose, mais son destin a été de survivre pour être témoin de quatre spectacles consécutifs de la Fête des Vignerons durant sa vie. Ce dernier est sans doute son préféré. Assise confortablement dans le wagon d’un train moderne, j’ai imaginé l’effort extraordinaire de l’oncle de cette dame pour rentrer chez lui à cheval, dans l’obscurité, tard dans la nuit, après avoir participé à la Fête des Vignerons version 1927. Tandis qu’elle, de son côté, n’a eu l’occasion d’assister à son premier spectacle qu’après la deuxième guerre mondiale.
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