'Fête des Vignerons': make merry at the Swiss winemakers' festival

'Fête des Vignerons': make merry at the Swiss winemakers' festival

If you’ve looked at any Swiss newspapers or programmes in the past few months you’ll have heard about the famous ‘Fête des Vignerons’. It’s a once-in-a-generation event that sounds like it's not to be missed. So what’s all the fuss about, and will there be wine?

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Notes on this episode

We try to answer the most important questions before it begins.

What is the 'Fête des Vignerons'?

The festival is a massive production that takes place in a huge arena in Vevey, French-speaking Switzerland. There is space for 20,000 spectators for every performance. The show itself is a celebration of the winemaking tradition that exists in this part of Switzerland. There is also a festival village with lots of entertainment and music being put on over different stages.

The history of the 'Fête des Vignerons'

It has a long history, estimated to have begun in the 1700s. Back then, the winemakers’ association which represented landowners, awarded winemakers in the region for their work and gave prizes to encourage the perfection of the art of growing the grapes. There was a parade and eventually in 1797 a stage was erected so more people could see the prize giving. At this point the event started to look more like it does today. The last edition was in 1999.

What’s so special about it?

It’s the first living Swiss tradition that’s recognised by UNESCO for its ‘intangible cultural heritage’. It can take place a maximum of five times every hundred years.

What happens in the show?

It’s all about a year in the life of a vineyard, it starts and finishes with the harvest. At the centre of the event is the crowning of winegrowers, who did particularly excellent work. This takes place on July 18. In the show, which is on until August 11, there are 5,500 actors involved, who come from the local region. The costumes are elaborate, handmade, fantastical pieces. There is a gigantic choir, an orchestra, a brass band, a jazz band and more. There are giant video and LED projections.

Where can I get tickets?

Here. They cost from CHF39-359.

Anything else you need to know?

The director of the the 'Fête des Vignerons' is Daniele Finzi Pasca, from Lugano. He created the closing ceremonies for the Olympic Games in Turin in 2006 and Sochi in 2014, and has worked for the Cirque du Soleil.

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