Caves Ouvertes in the Lavaux
I must have read something about wineries in this region when researching Lausanne ahead of our first visit. Nonetheless, color me surprised when we made for our initial exploratory trip for Arnaud’s first interview with his current university and saw all the vineyards spreading up from Lake Geneva on the train to Lausanne from the airport.
Since then, more than one visitor has remarked it as surprising as well.
The region of Vaud, Switzerland, actively produces wine and has done so for centuries. Though the entire area has wineries, the Lavaux, a subregion of Vaud just east of Lausanne that rises steeply from the lakefront, presenting terraces of vines to the sunlight, has a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation.
Though I see the Lavaux regularly, as we live so close to it, and though we’ve walked through the Lavaux a few times on our way to somewhere else, we hadn’t explored it with any real intention. The combination of my mother’s visit and the annual late spring or early summer Caves Ouverts Vaudoises event gave us the perfect opportunity for a more intentional visit.
Spanning Wineries across Vaud
The Caves Ouvertes Vaudoises event included some 300-plus wineries across six wine-growing regions in Vaud. We spent our time during the event in the Lavaux exclusively, though I have zero doubt that we’ll find the other areas beautiful as well when we get a chance to visit them in the future.
A two-day Caves Ouvertes Vaudoises event ticket included all transportation (i.e., trams, funiculars, buses, and trains), unlimited wine tastings across the six wine-growing regions, and modest discounts on bulk wine purchases.
Also, the wineries provided snacks for guests; we saw several plates of charcuterie and crisp, freshly baked pizzas carried from kitchens on wooden boards across cobblestoned streets to reception areas indoors and outdoors.
A ticket cost 24 Swiss Francs when purchased in advance and came in the form of a wine glass etched with the event’s branding—for all the tastings, naturally.
Gorgeous Views, Steep Hills, and Medieval Villages
We had to shove to get onto the train from Lausanne to the Lavaux due to the confluence of the event’s and the region’s popularity. In jamming the four of us onto the train, I worried a bit that the entire day would involve teeming crowds—preventing us from enjoying it. Fortunately, we found each tiny Lavaux town only moderately populated with guests, thanks to the size of the region.
Also, other wine regions may have had fewer crowds. Without question, the Lavaux area has the most renown (and, therefore, the most allure).
One Event Downside: Overcrowded and Intermittent Transportation
Overcrowded transportation did turn into an ongoing event pain point, though. Many of the transports we took involved people standing shoulder-to-shoulder.
I’d recommend that the event organizers plan more frequent transportation between towns and wineries in future years, and that they provide the transportation on a defined schedule as well. As it stood, transportation points—which could have used clearer marking—had transport options arriving once every forty-five minutes and without any appointed hours.
You never knew exactly when in the time window you’d arrived to the stop, and you didn’t want to leave and miss the transportation, as you’d have to wait forty-five minutes for the next one.
Caves Ouvertes Vaudoises for Nondrinkers
Arnaud and I don’t much drink wine—me not at all and him very little—so we purchased tickets for my mom and Pete and passed on tickets for ourselves. We didn’t mind paying for our transportation along the way, we ate a big enough breakfast to not feel overly tempted by the snacks, and we saved the 24 Franc ticket fee.
Even wineless, we loved the opportunity to walk around the picturesque villages, see the wineries opened to the public all at once, watch all the people, soak in the sun, and drink in the scenic views.
Visiting Vaud’s Wineries
You can visit wineries in Vaud and, more specifically, the Lavaux even if you miss the Caves Ouvertes Vaudoises event. Several of the wineries take bookings for tastings.
Also, you can simply visit the area on any beautiful day and walk or hike the winding trails between the wineries. (Just prepare for a workout and bring sunscreen and comfortable clothes and shoes—these hills have serious gradients.) The region has even created a phone app to guide vineyard walks, I just discovered. (I haven’t tried it—if you do, let me know what you think.)