The best view of the area is from a ferry on the water. From there you can trace the undulating stone walls that run roughly parallel to the lakeshore; these follow the landscape like contour lines on a map, with row upon row of vines occupying the spaces between them. Tiny, red-roofed villages and wineries are dotted throughout. It’s a fine example of man and nature working in harmony – a sentiment echoed by UNESCO when it inscribed Lavaux onto its World Heritage List in 2007. Its official description praised the area’s ‘centuries-long interaction between people and their environment’. The reality is so much more captivating in person.
“On a clear, sunny day the French Alps of Haute-Savoie appear pin-sharp across the water”
The vineyards have long been vital to not just the local economy, but the culture and lifestyle of this area. Over the centuries, winemaking has seeped into the very fabric of Lavaux. Its pretty villages – Saint-Saphorin, Rivaz, Grandvaux, Lutry – house numerous wine cellars, while gnarled old vines trail across the doors and windows of shops and cafés, including the appropriately named L’Auberge du Raisin (‘Grape Inn’) in Cully.
Each May, the caves ouvertes (open cellars) weekend of wine tasting attracts thousands of people, while visitors in September flock to the grape harvest festival in Lutry to sample the local wines and watch the parades. However, arguably the pinnacle of the region’s grape-worshipping is the Fête des Vignerons in Vevey, a huge festival that takes place every 20 years or so. The last edition, in 2019, was a month-long extravaganza that featured a cast of 5,500 local volunteers and events staged in a 20,000-seat arena that had been specially built on the lakeshore.