July 20: The 12th edition of Swiss wine producers’ festival, Fete des Vignerons, held once in 20 years, continues with the centuries-old tradition and is being celebrated since July 18 till August 11 in the town of Vevey on Lake Geneva, receiving tourists and wine lovers from Switzerland and across the world. Subhash Arora who visited the Canton of Vaud (region) earlier in May during a visit to Aigle Switzerland during judging at Concours Mondial de Bruxelles, writes
Fete des Vignerons is principally a colourful celebration time of the Swiss winegrowers with people dressing in colourful costumes representing different facets of life in the vineyards that includes dressing up like insects (ants and grasshoppers), pests, droughts and storms that are nemesis for the winegrowers.
During the kickoff parade last Thursday, kids in butterfly or ladybug costumes marched through Vevey, while marching band players took a break from the Swiss sunshine with glasses filled with wine or even cold beer, thanks to the current heat wave for them with soaring temperatures crossing 30°C (In Delhi it has been 43°C+ recently, folks!).
About a million tourists are expected to visit Vevey where the festival runs through Aug. 11 and watch multiple activities including a mega show with dancers, musicians and other festivities in a Super Bowl like arena that can hold around 20,000 people. Playing nightly it represents a year in the life in the vineyard, with 20 scenes starting and finishing with the harvest. It combines the work in the vineyard (pruning, training, etc.), social moments (weddings etc.) along with more general themes like the seasons, the water, the sun, the moon and the stars.
It highlights the link between man and nature and pays homage to the know-how of winegrowers. At the heart of the Show is the crowning of winegrowers rewarded for their excellent work by the Confrérie des Vignerons (Brotherhood of Winegrowers).
The choreography for the scenes at the nightly Show is performed by 5,500 actors and actresses from this region in costumes selected from the previous Fest of 1999 and earlier era. The magical, grandiose, and poetic performance showcased at 360° mixes with the music, the songs that carry the poems of the authors. The crowd movement images and videos are projected on giant screens as well as huge LED floor of the arena, according to the fete website.
The festival has its roots in a competition that began in the 17th century to ensure quality wines from the region, with a grading system that was brutal to those who were not at the top of the echelon. But when it was held for the first time in the current structured, formal format in 1797, it was on a more positive note by rewarding and recognising exceptional wine producers.
The lakeside town of Vevey was full of excitement and expectation about Fete des Vignerons, starting in less than 2 months when we visited Vevey and took a boat ride on Lake Geneva passing by the gorgeous, hilly Lavaux wine region, world famous for its terraced vineyards that were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.
In 2016, the U.N. Heritage Site classified the Festival also as part of the intangible cultural heritage of Switzerland. The Fête des Vignerons thus brings different generations together, connecting people from the villages, countryside and vineyards, locals and foreigners, and offers them an opportunity to go beyond themselves and collectively participate in this unique show in the world.
The boat ride on a heritage boat Belle Époque boat (from the golden era of comfort from pre- first world war and very popular in this region) from Vevey on Lake Geneva towards Lausanne and bringing us back to the Chateau de Chillon past the world famous Montreux (where you must spend a day if you visit the fete) was memorable, what with wines from different parts of Lavaux served as we enjoyed the fascinating view of the vineyards on the one side and snow peaked mountains on the other. These wines would surely be a center of attraction during the celebrations too. The ride had been organised by Concours Mondial de Bruxelles being held in Aigle and I had been invited as a judge for 11th successive year.
The closest one can think of this mega (Maha) Swiss Festival in India is Maha Kumbh Mela, a festival of religious gathering that is celebrated in one of the 4 cities by rotation and once every 12 years in the same city. An estimate 120 million congregated at Prayag (Allahabad) in 2013, a huge number even for the Indian population of 1.3 billion, for taking the religious bath.
While the festival is to celebrate wine making in Vaud- the mountainous Canton of Switzerland in general and the celebrated vineyards of Lavaux in particular, it is also a celebration of Switzerland and its amazing natural environment, featuring each of its 26 Cantons (Federal States like our States in India).
Many of the Swiss living abroad have booked tickets to attend the celebrations. It looks like Vevey will be the capital of Switzerland from July 18 to August 11, 2019.
For earlier related Articles, please visit,
Concours Mondial Bruxelles 2019 in Switzerland with a Difference
Swiss Vineyard Region gets Heritage Site Status
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