Wine-Ding Down in Switzerland; the Valais Region of Switzerland Is Not Just for Skiers, Says Liza Williams

Article excerpt

Byline: Liza Williams

THINK wine and you think of endless vineyard plots in France, Australia or Chile.

But Switzerland is not a place that springs to mind, because you never see Swiss wine on your local supermarket shelves.

However in the mountainous Valais region of the country, just east of Lake Geneva, there are 5,113 hectares of vineyards and various producers making award winning bottles of plonk.

The district has several strings to its bow, being home to the Swiss Alps, picturesque villages and top class skiing resorts.

On my trip to the region I flew into Zurich and took a two-and-a-half hour train ride through stunning scenery, arriving in the town of Sierre, situated on the French/German speaking border.

I settled at Hotel Arkanum in the near-by chocolate box village of Salgesch, and was immediately whisked away with my group to the Valaisan Museum of Wine and Wine growing, which chronicles the history of the industry in the region.

We then travelled higher up into the mountains of Sierre for the first of our wine tasting sessions at Rouvinez Wines.

The family owned estate was established in 1947 by Bernard Rouvinez, an independent wine merchant, and then expanded and developed by his sons, Dominique and Jean-Bernard.

The company owns a number of vineyards in the Valais region and exports some of its producea rarity in Switzerland, hence why us Brits would not normally think of it as a wine producing country.

But the primary reason for travelling to this area of Switzerland is the Alps.

In winter resorts such as Zermatt are popular skiing destinations, but tourist chiefs are actively promoting Valais as a year-round holiday choice.

They say families in particular will enjoy the region, with organised activities like mule trekking, cycling and horse riding on offer.

And if we were unsure, local trekking company Swiss Alpine Emotion helped convince us.

Run by three women with a passion for the outdoors in Valais, their treks and walks offer a very special, unique experience.

We took a cable car high into the mountains and leisurely strolled through the countryside, spotting wildlife on the way and taking in the sheer beauty of the landscape.

One third of the team, Muriel Macgeorge, prepared the group an aperitif and snacks, all from home made and natural ingredients - part of the experience the company offers walkers who want to enjoy all aspects of their environment.

We then made our way down the mountain on non-motorised scooters - a bit of a hairy experience initially but lots of fun for those willing to persevere.

Wine was firmly back on the agenda the next morning, when our group travelled to Sion, home of the Provins wine cellars. …