European Breaks: Three suns, one grape, a lot of flavour

As Lavaux celebrates its new World Heritage status, Adrian Mourby raises a glass to its viniculturalists

'I was not sure that this was a good idea," says Bernard Bovy, mayor of Chexbres, as we sit on his verandah looking down on terraces of grapes with the blue lake beyond. "Maybe there would be too many restrictions." But M Bovy decided it was worth putting together the document that convinced Unesco why this landscape must be preserved.

The Lavaux region has produced wine for more than 1,000 years on a series of stone terraces overlooking Lake Geneva. "The first monks came here around 1000," says M Bovy. "They cut down the forest and planted vines. They needed wine for the divine service – also for themselves!"

Nowadays, the slopes are dotted with wine-producing villages. If you take a steamer up from Geneva, you'll know when you've reached Lavaux – large signs in Hollywood-white letters proclaim the region's seven appellations from iridescent green hillsides.

"We are 270 wine growers working 800 hectares," says M Bovy. "Some families go back hundreds of years. We produce some red wine, but mostly Lavaux blanc with the Chasselas grape." I must admit I've never heard of Chasselas, though I've tasted other whites with this slight tang and delicious apple flavour.

"Seventy per cent of the wine output of this whole region is Chasselas. This is something that we are very proud of." It's the oldest grape used in wine-making, but is usually blended because the flavour is rarely good enough for wine.

"But these terraces are very rich and very varied. The soil makes all the difference," says M Bovy. "That is why we are able to produce eight different appellations in Lavaux with just one grape. Of course, having three suns also helps!" Bernard is referring to the sunlight reflected off Lake Geneva, as well as solar heat stored in the stone terraces.

"But it is not easy working these slopes. Everything has to be done by hand: no machines," he says. "I hope World Heritage status will help us to sell our wine better. Nowadays, young people want to drink New World wines. We want them to be proud of what their land produces."

Later, I'm struck by the fact that Lavaux symbolises how we want to believe our wine is produced, in small domaines run by individual growers who love the land. It's only when I call in at my soulless local Co-op that I see the problem. Italian and South American wines are selling at £1.20, while a basic Lavaux blanc costs more than £5. Next month, Lavaux will be staging a Festival of the Five Senses to celebrate its Unesco status.I wish them luck. The place is beautiful; the wine is good and the owners of the domaines will talk to you all afternoon. I hate it when my love of a landscape and its people comes between me and a cheap drink.

How to get there:

Adrian Mourby flew to Geneva with Swiss (08456 010956; swiss. com) which offers return flights from London City airport from £92. He stayed at Le Baron Tavernier in Chexbres (00 41 21 926 6000; barontavernier. com); doubles start at Sfr240 (£99) per night.



Further information:

Swiss Tourist Office (00 800 100 200 30; my switzerland.com).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Bid Writer

    £25000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in Manchester, Lon...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £20,000 Uncapped

    £15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Guru Careers: Membership Administrator

    £23K: Guru Careers: We're seeking an experienced Membership Administrator, to ...

    Day In a Page

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific