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|The Valais Wine Trail or Wine Path is the perfect way to explore the Swiss canton of Valais and its vineyards. The route, which was completed in 2007, leads through the terraced vineyards which grace the sundrenched south-facing slopes of the Rhone Valley. The Wine Trail stays primarily on the north side of the Rhone and undulates its way through the vineyards and villages of the region. Tours to this region can be found with Alpenwild Swiss Tours.|
Wine in Valais and Switzerland
Wine production in Switzerland is somewhat of a secret to the rest of the world. Switzerland produces around 200 million bottles of wine per year and consumes almost all if it within Switzerland. Less than two percent of Switzerland’s wine is exported. Switzerland is one of the top wine consuming countries in the world on a per capita basis, so Switzerland actually imports much of its wine as it consumes its own production.
In Valais, and along the Wine Trail, you experience the variety of grapes—around 50 different varieties—that go into the wine of Valais. On average, Valais produces 45 million liters of wine per year, of which about 60% are red and 40% white. Three major grapes account for 85 percent of the region’s productions: Pinot Noir, Chasselas, and Gamay. The two best known wines of the region, which are produced at wineries along the Wine Path, are the white Fendant and the red Dôle. With many microclimates and a wide variety of soils, winegrowers in Valais are able to find an ideal location for the diversity of grapes they cultivate.
Valais comprises nearly forty percent of Switzerland’s annual wine production. But what you’ll experience on the Valais Wine Trail is very different from what you would see in the large commercial wine regions of neighboring France and Italy. The vineyards of Valais are set on steep slopes, most of which are hundreds of years old and many of those vineyards date to Roman times. As a result, the vineyards of Valais are tended and harvested by hand, since no large mechanized equipment can be used on such steeply terraced rows.
The Route of the Wine Trail
The Wine Trail consists of 41 miles (66km) of hiking trails, graded roads, and some sections of paved road. The path is set at elevations between 1475 and 2625 vertical feet (450-800 meters). The Wine Trail can be enjoyed on foot or on bicycle.
Starting in Martigny with its Roman amphitheater, the Wine Trail crosses the Rhône River and enters the Grand Cru vineyards of Fully. The walk passes below the ramparts of Saillon, Valais’ best-preserved medieval village, before continuing on to Leytron, Conthey, and into Sion, the largest city and capital of Valais.
From Sion, which is guarded over by two hilltop castles, you’ll continue through Ollon, Loc, and through Venthône on the hillside above Sierre. On to Salgesch, the Wine Trail leads through Varen and into Leuk.
You can walk the entire route or just select the sections that interest you the most. One particularly popular section is the 4-mile (6km) route between Sierre and Salgesch, and features the 16th-century Chateau de Villa and Vinothèque as the starting point in Sierre and the Wine and Vineyard Museum in Salgesch at the conclusion. Along the way you pass from Frech-speaking area of Switzerland into the German-speaking region. This section of the Wine Trail is featured on Alpenwild’s Cheese, Chocolate and the Scenic Alps tour, along with other historic sites, wineries, and restaurants in Valais.
For More Information
Although little is available in English, there is a detailed route guide published in French and German (Chemin du Vignoble |Weinweg) which is available from local tourism offices. You can also find additional information and resources in French at www.cheminduvignoble.ch or in German at www.weinweg.ch