About two months ago we tried to go wine tasting down the road from where we live–in the gorgeous vineyard towns of Dardagny, Satigny and Russin. But as we knocked on doors of cellars and peeked in windows of shops, we found no one home. Finally, we found someone working at one of the vineyards who informed us “it wasn’t wine season yet.”
I was under the impression that all seasons are wine season…
…still, we dutifully marked May 30th on our calendar with plans to return for the season opening, for caves ouvertes (open cellars). As the day neared I started seeing advertisements around Geneva. On the bus I overheard two girls making picnic plans for cave ouvertes. We inquired about renting bicycles for cave ouvertes on Friday and were basically laughed out of the shop.
By the time caves ouvertes actually arrived, I was beginning to wonder what we were getting ourselves into and pushed for us to get to the train station early where we found all of Geneva headed to cave ouvertes: Elderly gentlemen with canes, parents pushing baby strollers, bachelor parties, hipsters drinking breakfast beers, straw hat-clad 20-something students and us.
After a 10-minute trip, we poured off the train en masse and headed up a hill (always up a hill!) to vineyards in Russin. There we purchased a five-franc wine glass to be used throughout the day to taste as much wine at as many vineyards as we pleased for free. No wonder it’s so popular.
The day isn’t just the beginning of the wine season, it is an all-out party for the entire canton.
Every vineyard hosted a slightly different party–from David Bowie cover bands to wine cork artwork–but most offered ample seating, delicious lunch things and bon vivavnts.
Inside one cellar was a secret tasting room inside a wine barrel–how cool is that?!
The big, raucous street party was up the road in Dardagny. There we devoured a bratwurst and fries for lunch (saving our healthy picnic things for a mid-afternoon snack) and lounged like the Swiss. Everyone set claim to a small square of land to swirl wine glasses and steal naps.
I’d be quick to recommend cave ouvertes as one of the most fun, least expensive activities I’ve experienced in Switzerland…but we actually ended up buying three bottles of wine to take home, which is exactly what the vintners are hoping will happen during caves ouvertes.
That said, it was one of the most glorious days I’ve spent here yet.
- Exploring Swiss Wine Country (Wall Street Journal)
- Hot-Weather White Wines and Food (Food & Wine)
- How I learned how to order wine in Switzerland