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Winegrowers' Festivalonce a generation

Everything you need to know about the Winegrowers’ Festival held once a generation

Which traditional festival can claim to stir up passions several years before being held? To be on the list of the UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage? To take place only once a generation but to have been a major topic of conversation in the region for four centuries? The Winegrowers’ Festival is a unique event that brought nearly a million visitors to Vevey from July 18 to August 11 2019.

What is the Winegrowers’ Festival exactly?

The Winegrowers’ Festival pays tribute to the wine-growing traditions in the vineyards of Lavaux and the Vaudois Chablais. The show is exceptional by its size alone, where the crowning of the winegrowers and vineyard hands takes centre stage. Its history dates back to the 17th century, although the first known festival was organised in 1797 by the Confrérie des Vignerons (Brotherhood of Winegrowers). Since then, the Winegrowers’ Festival has been held ten times only. It's this very scarcity that contributes to its legend. Those who have attended it hope to be able to see it again. The younger generations look forward to comparing their forefathers’ stories with their own experiences.

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Even today, the festival is organised by the “Confrérie des Vignerons” with the help of thousands of volunteers coming from Montreux Riviera and the surroundings. Thanks to the population’s commitment, the festival has been Switzerland’s first living tradition to be recognised by UNESCO.

Fête des vignerons 2019 - spectacle de nuit

A grandiose spectacle

Above all, the Winegrowers’ Festival is unique in the world. The topic, scene-setting and score are created anew for each edition. Contemporary artists thus redesign the legacy of tradition each time. More than 1,200 singers and musicians as well as 5,500 extras in costumes performed in an ephemeral arena. The latter was purpose-built in the heart of Vevey, on Place du Marché next to Lake Geneva. The 2019 arena was equipped with giant screens and a huge LED floor. A technical feat! The festival offered 20 performances in front an audience of 20,000 spectators each time.

I’m aiming for a circular drama line showing the eternally recommencing natural cycle. The apotheosis of the vine cycle is the grape harvest, an exciting time that lends itself perfectly to an exhilarating start and a festive ending.
Daniele Finzi PascaDaniele Finzi Pasca
director of the 2019 Winegrowers’ Festival show

Confrérie des Vignerons has commissioned Daniele Finzi Pasca, a famous stage director from the Swiss canton of Ticino, to put this unique show together. Mr. Finzi Pasca has been in charge of Cirque du Soleil and some of the Olympic ceremonies. He’s well known for his sensitivity and ability to take the spectators by the hand to lead them to the land of emotions. In summer 2019, he described a year in the life of a vine. The narration took the form of a moving dialogue between a little girl and her grandfather. The Confrérie’s coronation of the winegrowers and the vineyard hands were the festival’s central event.

Fête des vignerons 2019 - spectacle de nuit

In the land of the Winegrowers’ Festival

In summer 2019, nearly a million visitors from around the world flocked to Vevey in the region of Montreux Riviera . They were either fans of wine tourism, extraordinary artistic performances or simply interested in discovering a tradition registered by UNESCO as intangible cultural heritage. “Ville en Fête” is the side event of this eagerly awaited festival. The streets were filled with restaurants and cellars as well as freely accessible entertainment that is suitable for the whole family. As to the “Cantonal Days”, they featured a different Swiss region every day. The wines from each region were served on the Terrasses de la Confrérie.

This summer, Vevey will be the capital of Switzerland. Each canton will send a festive and cultural wine-growing group of representatives that are linked to its specific terroir and traditions.
François Margot
Abbott President of the Confrérie des Vignerons

The Wine Train is scheduled to run hourly to take passengers from Vevey to the heart of the Lavaux vineyards. This is where you can taste local wines, visit the terraced UNESCO World Heritage vineyards and get insight into the passion and work of the winegrowers honoured by the Festival. Some of these winegrowers offer holiday apartments, a charming way to discover the daily life of these artisans of wine.

Vevey and its Winegrowers’ Festival are the ideal departing point for not-to-miss excursions to Lake Geneva, the surrounding mountains and the cultural and gastronomic sites in the canton of Vaud.

Fête des vignerons 2019 - spectacle de nuit - Julie - capite

Vevey, the capital of the Winegrowers’ Festival

In 2016, The New York Times shortlisted the canton of Vaud as one of the world’s most beautiful destinations and has again recognised its quality, diversity and authentic tourism offer this year by including the town of Vevey and its exceptional Winegrowers’ Festival 2019 in the 52 must-visit destinations in 2019. This recommendation is also shared by the National Geographic and The Guardian.

This promotional boost obviously came about thanks to the Winegrowers’ Festival 2019. Be that as it may, all these merits are well deserved. Vevey offers cultural sites, pleasant living conditions and an authenticity throughout the year. This has attracted many people, including stars like Charlie Chaplin, who is celebrated in the Chaplin’s World Museum in Corsier-sur-Vevey.

The soul of the Winegrowers’ Festival is eternal. Visitors can learn all about its legend at the Museum of the Confrérie des Vignerons (Brotherhood of Winegrowers). The best way to experience this tradition throughout the seasons is to board the Train des Vignes (Wine Train). It’ll take you to the villages in the Lavaux vineyards where you can meet Winegrowers and vineyard hands. There wouldn't be a festival without them. To get to Vevey and the shores of Lake Geneva, tourists and natives like to board a CGN Belle Epoque ship.

3 questions to Marie-Jo Valente

Marie-Jo Valente is a marketing, communication and media manager. She divides her time between her winegrower family in Lavaux and the Winegrowers’ Festival office. (Interview done in Spring 2019)

Why is the Winegrowers’ Festival a must-attend event this summer?
Because it only takes place once every 25 years! People who are in Switzerland at the time of the event should not miss it. The specially created show will only be performed during the festival. It’ll be a unique and unforgettable experience for all those able to attend.

What part of the show are you looking forward to most?
We won’t be able to see the entire show before the dress rehearsal on July 17, just like the public and the extras, who have been rehearsing for several months already. What I’m looking forward to most are the images of the harvest, a season dear to me. The show will be very innovative and use cutting-edge technology: there will be a LED-lit ground covering some 500 square metres, and the screenings, the video and audio systems used for the show will be world premieres.

What will there be to see in the festival city?
There will be a daily open-air show open to all. As host of the “Cantonal Days”, the festival town will offer entertainment activities throughout the day until the night procession. On Thursday, July 18, Saturday, 27 July, and Saturday, 3 August, there will be three free-of-charge processions featuring the extras of the show. The regional winegrowers will of course be a main focus, especially at Terrasses de la Confrérie. These terraces will be open as of May 20. This is where you can discover the regional wines as well as the best Vaudois and Swiss vintages, in connection with the “Cantonal Days”.

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