In Switzerland, a once-in-a-generation wine festival is set to be the star summer attraction.
Enveloped by the terraced World Heritage vineyards of Lavaux and with a giant fork sculpture at its heart, Vevey’s raison d’être is immediately obvious. Food and wine are taken seriously in this tiny Swiss town, reclining on Lake Geneva’s northern shores overlooking the Alps. And both are celebrated with bacchanalian fanfare at the Fête des Vignerons (July 18–August 11).
Held only every 20 to 25 years—the last edition was two decades ago—this huge grapegrowers’ festival is expected to swell Vevey’s population from 18,000 to more than 400,000, including some 5,500 local artisans, actors, and volunteers participating in 20 wine-themed performances. One of the world’s largest wine carnivals, the Fête is also among the oldest, founded in 1797 by the Confrérie des Vignerons, or Brotherhood of Winegrowers, to promote the region’s vineyards, which themselves date to medieval times. What started as a one-day event has evolved into a three-week extravaganza, with tastings, wine education, and cellar tours alongside plenty of entertainment.
Streets are transformed by free colorful parades and live music, but there are also ticketed highlights including the planned two-hour inaugural show directed by Swiss native Daniele Finzi Pasca, a Cirque du Soleil artistic director. Set in a purpose-built arena fitted with LED flooring, the spectacle’s 20,000 onlookers will be treated to a fanciful interpretation of what it’s like to spend a year on a vineyard. With so much to offer and such an enormous cultural scope, it comes as no surprise that this once-in-a-generation jubilee was recently added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list.
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This article originally appeared in the June/July 2019 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Grape Expectations”).