The country may be known for its lakes and mountains, but it keeps another of its most precious assets to itself.

Take the train from Geneva to Montreux and you’ll be mesmerized by the views of misty water set off by snow-topped mountains. The tracks hug the edges of Lake Geneva, passing through a scattering of ancient villages en route – but look through its other window and another, more surprising landscape opens up: rows of UNESCO-protected green vines climbing the mountains away from the water’s edge.

The region that stretches from the city of Lausanne towards the Alps is called Lavaux and they’ve been making wine on its terraces since at least the 11th century (and possibly since Roman times). Despite this, only one percent of Switzerland’s vintages are exported meaning that wine production remains the country’s happy secret. And they like to celebrate it.

All the fun of the festival

A series of wine-themed fiestas take place in Lavaux’s lively towns and villages. The most serious of all is in Chardonne, a sleepy village high above the lake where houses are outnumbered by neat rows of vines. In May, its Caves Ouvertes weekend gives visitors and residents the chance to sample the best wines of Lavaux and the surrounding regions. 

Buy a wine passport and it comes with a glass, which means you can flit between producers’ stands trying their vintages. Or, for an altogether more raucous affair, try Cully’s Jazz Festival. 

For one April weekend, live music mixes with leisurely drinking in this lively lakeside town with its half-timbered houses and quaint alleys. Stalls from local producers wind through the cobbled streets, leading to packed venues where international musicians play sets into the early hours.

Later in the year, in Switzerland’s underrated Fall when the lake burns orange with the trees’ myriad reflections, one of the most beautiful villages in the country holds its Grape Harvest Festival. Here in Lutry, amongst the maze of medieval lanes and along the promenade to the pebbled beach, tasting tents and live music make for an entertaining weekend and prove that wine tourism in the country is anything but stuffy.

Liquid lunches

In Lavaux and the regions near to it (including the Valais, which climbs away from the lake and up the Alps), wine is a way of life. By mid-morning at the little cafes that hem its towns, groups congregate to gossip over glasses of Fendant, a crisp, dry and thoroughly drinkable white.

For more celebratory tastings, the region also has restaurants high among the terraces, with incredible views to match the vintages. Most spectacular of all is Le Deck in the Hotel Baron Tavernier in Chexbres, where a flurry of sun umbrellas make for shady views over the vine and out towards the water.

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