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On the wine trail in the Vaud, Switzerland 


vaud9.jpg (42961 bytes) If you ever find yourself in Geneva with a day to kill, I highly recommend hiring a car and heading out of town along the banks of Lac Léman. This is a tour that we took in June 1999, on a glorious summer Saturday. The gentle slopes along the shore of the lake are home to Switzerland’s most important wine regions: of these, the Vaud is the closest to Geneva, moving up to Lavaux (which begins past Lausanne), and then follows the Rhone past Montreux to Chablais and the Valais. vaud19.jpg (31996 bytes)
In the UK it is very rare to see Swiss wines on sale: it therefore came as quite a surprise for me to see that just about the whole of the sloping north bank of the lake is covered by vineyards. Most are tiny holdings, immaculately kept, with neatly ordered rows of densely spaced vines. Very Swiss. The main grapes planted are Chasselas (some 50%) and Gamay, with some Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir. Whites predominate, accounting for some 80% of all wine made. vaud15.jpg (40586 bytes)
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vaud10.jpg (21277 bytes)Because of the predominance of small producers -- often part-timers with tiny holdings -- if you want to visit domaines you will usually need to phone ahead to book an appointment. Otherwise, there are a few larger domaines that will receive visitors unannounced. We called in at Domaine des Chantailles, located near the village of Tartegnin (Arlette et Philippe Deruaz, 1180 Tartegnin, Tel/Fax 021 835 2294). We were given a friendly reception and taken round the cellars for a tasting. The 1998 Chasselas was a simple, clean white, but was upstaged by the more interesting 1998 Pinot Blanc. The 1997 Pinot Noir was a light, cherry-laced red wine with high acidity and good food compatibility. The 1998 Rosé de Gamay was another rather simple but fresh thirst quencher. Overall, none of these wines was stunning, but all were good enough: they are wines that serve the function of accompanying food, and are inexpensive enough (£4- £6) to buy in quantity. The same has been true of many of the other Swiss wines that I have tried.
We had lunch at L'Auberge de Bugnaux (Christophe Ziegert, 1180 Rolle, Tel 021 825 1682) , a top-notch restaurant in an idyllic setting overlooking the Lake from a vantage point near the top of the slope. Equidistant between Geneva and Lausanne, above the town of Rolle, this is well worth a detour.

In conclusion, while the wines may not blow you away, this Vaud offers some of the most accessible and scenic wine country in Europe. The Swiss vineyards are probably also the neatest that you will ever see!


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