Heroic and vertiginous harvests

By France Massy, Le Nouvelliste

Our Valais alpine landscape is composed with vineyards that seem to hang in the sky. From Vionnaz to Niedergesteln I have discovered amazing plots.

For some, the harvest that ends has been more painful than others. When you watch the vintners and their teams climb slopes with gradients between 30 and 50°, you think they must be mad insisting to preserve their land in such a hostile environment.

Since 1991 the surfaces cultivated with grapes in Valais shrunk from 5266 hectares to 4906 hectares. The loss is due mainly to the use of the land for housing, much more profitable for the owner that the sale of the grapes. But also in partly due to the abandonment of those areas difficult to reach and cultivate (if not mechanized, they double or triple the cost of production), or simply lots abandoned by individual vine growers, retired and with no successors.

I am taking you to the discovery of brave vine growers unfrighten by the void. As if those steep and difficult areas were a warranty for more authenticity. As if the work endured brought more flavour to the divine drink. As if the nearby sky conveyed some poetry to the juice.

Clos de la Couta to Vex: an air of rice field

"The closest vineyard to the Matterhorn on a straight line!" says Gilles Besse. An exceptional and hidden jewel nestled in a secluded valley below the village of Vex. The Swiss Confederation, the town and the forty owners wanted to rehabilitate the 17’000 sqm. It is now leased to the Domain Jean-René Germanier who was responsible to restore it. These very steep vineyards are planted in Pinot noir and Heida. From the lowest altitude of 650 meters to the highest 850 meters, the Clos de la Couta reminds me of the Longsheng rice terraces in China.