The arena for the Fête des Vignerons ( © Fête des Vignerons)
Vevey, Switzerland (Roland Zumbuehl via WikiCommons under CC BY-SA 4.0)
The Fête des Vignerons pays homage to viticultural traditions many centuries old of an entire region with a spectacular show and coronation of the vineyard hands. (© Fête des Vignerons)
The Coronation Ceremony of the 1927 festival (© Confrérie Des Vignerons)

This Wine Festival in Switzerland Only Happens Once a Generation—and It’s Taking Place Right Now

The renowned wine festival only takes places once every 20 to 25 years

smithsonian.com

This summer, what is arguably the most anticipated wine festival of the decade is taking over a Swiss town on Lake Geneva.

Held in Vevey, Switzerland, the Fête des Vignerons (which translates to the Festival of Winegrowers) is a three-week celebration of the wine regions of Chablais vaudois and Lavaux, in addition to the people who harvest and produce the wine.

This will be the 12th time in history the festival will take place since its inauguration in 1797, as it occurs once every 20 to 25 years — the last Fête des Vignerons was in 1999. UNESCO officially recognized its cultural significance in 2016 by placing it on the agency's List of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

1851 Poster
A poster advertising the 1851 festival. (© Confrérie des Vignerons)

Organized by the Confrérie des Vignerons, the festivities will kick off with a Coronation Ceremony on Thursday, July 18. The ceremony, held in a 20,000-seat arena built for the occasion, will “praise and distinguish the best winemakers” in the region. As the UNESCO Lavaux Vineyard Terraces are near Vevey, those crowned during the coronation could also be considered some of the best in the world.

The coronation will debut a theatrical performance by lead dramatist and director Daniele Finzi Pasca, who has directed Cirque du Soleil productions and choreographed the closing ceremonies of the Turin and Sochi Winter Olympics in 2006 and 2014. Featuring 5,500 local actors and actresses, 900 singers, and 268 musicians, the show is billed as a "magical, grandiose, dynamic and poetic performance" that “represents a year in the life of the vineyard.”

costumes
Costumes designed for the ceremony by Giovanna Buzzi. (Photographer: Fred Merz, © Fête des Vignerons)

For those who are unable to attend the Coronation Ceremony, the show will be performed 19 more times over the course of three weeks, with the last performance held on the last day of the festival, Sunday, August 11. Tickets for the show, including the Coronation, start at 80.90 Swiss Francs (about $81).

Of course, no wine festival is complete without wine. The Fête des Vignerons will have 15 official wine cellars with the region's best wines on offer, as well as wines made specifically for the festival, courtesy of Obrist and Badoux wineries.

Next to the arena, festival attendees can enjoy the three-level reception area, which comes with a Vaudois wine bar, cheese bar, a cocktail lounge, and a rooftop terrace providing dramatic views of Lake Geneva and the surrounding Alps. Visitors will also find parades, a dozen stages set up for concerts and family-friendly activities, and 50 food and drinks stands serving up international and Helvetic cuisine (including cold cuts, sausages, and cheeses) across town.

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