Heath village Visperterminen

If you hike from Visperterminen down to Visp, the old wisdom of Confucius is confirmed. The path is the goal here and it makes you happy. Europe’s highest vineyard is peppered with fantastic views of the Swiss Alps, you walk along ancient cultural paths, along historic vines and retaining walls, and in between there are culinary temptations. The good mountain air is a constant companion.

Visperterminen liegt auf 1.170 Meter. Im Dorf stehen verschachtelt die alten Häuser und Stadel. Mehrere sind heute kleine Museen und zeigen, wie die Einwohner von Visperterminen, die sich Terbiner nennen, vor rund 150 Jahren lebten / © Foto: Georg Berg
Visperterminen is situated at 1,170 meters. The village is dotted with old houses and barns. Several are now small museums and show how the inhabitants of Visperterminen, who call themselves Terbiner, lived some 150 years ago / © Photo: Georg Berg

A hike through Europe’s highest vineyard

The hike leads along the flank of Europe’s highest vineyard. Over a distance of about eight kilometers, one walks along a varied vineyard trail. In summer it is particularly pleasant to take the post bus to Visperterminen and then hike the way from the mountain to the valley. Of course, there is nothing against starting the trail from Visp.

Das Postauto (so nennt man in der Schweiz den Linienbus) fährt mehrmals am Tag von Visp rauf nach Visperterminen / © Foto: Georg Berg
The post bus (that’s what the bus is called in Switzerland) goes several times a day from Visp up to Visperterminen / © Photo: Georg Berg

Eight kilometers long and a good 450 meters in altitude, the route has up to the heath village of Visperterminen, 1,170 meters above sea level. Here there are several places to stop for refreshments. If you want to go even higher, you can take the chairlift from Visperterminen to Giw at 2,000 meters. On the way back down to Visp, wine lovers should definitely plan a tasting at the St. Jodern winery. The winery is named after St. Theodul, who is also called St. Jodern here. He is venerated as the patron saint of the Valais and the church of Visperterminen. According to a legend, Saint Jodern filled all the barrels in the country with the juice of this grape in an emergency year when only one grape had grown in the whole Valais.

Der Reblehrpfad und der Tärbiner Kulturweg. Es spricht nichts dagegen, aber einiges dafür, ihn in beide Richtungen zu wandern. Ein Richtungswechsel ist auch immer ein Perspektivwechsel und unterwegs gibt es viel zu entdecken / © Foto: Georg Berg
The vineyard educational trail and the Tärbiner culture trail. There is nothing against, but a lot in favor of hiking it in both directions. A change of direction is always a change of perspective and there is much to discover along the way / © Photo: Georg Berg

The vineyard nature trail and the Tärbiner culture trail

On 40 information panels, a lot of interesting facts about the Valais wines, the grape varieties of the mountain as well as their cultivation form and the cultivation methods are told. In order to make the steep slopes usable for cultivation at all, retaining walls have been artfully built here for centuries. It is a traditional craft that has produced imposing stone terraces.

Der Reblehrpfad startet in Visperterminen auf 1.170 Metern. Oft hat man beim Durchschreiten des höchsten Weinberges Europas die Viertausender im Blick / © Foto: Georg Berg
The vineyard nature trail starts in Visperterminen at 1,170 meters. Often one has a view of the four-thousand-meter peaks while walking through the highest vineyard in Europe / © Photo: Georg Berg

Coming from the valley, the Tärbiner Kulturweg informs about customs and the life of the Terbiner people. Halfway along the trail is the St. Jodern winery. Here you can taste the wide range of wines in a modern ambience. Valais specialties are also offered.

Immer wieder öffnet sich der Blick auf die 4.000-er im Oberwallis. Zwischen Visperterminen und Visp liegen einige kleiner Weiler. Ab dem Weiler Oberstaden wird der Reblehrpfad zum Tärbiner Kulturweg / © Foto: Georg Berg
Again and again, the view of the 4,000-meter-high mountains in the Upper Valais opens up. Between Visperterminen and Visp are some small hamlets. From the hamlet of Oberstaden, the Reblehrpfad becomes the Tärbiner Kulturweg / © Photo: Georg Berg

Framed by the highest Swiss mountains, the vines in Visperterminen grow up to an altitude of 1,150 meters. These vines thus form the highest vineyard in all of Europe. In short terraces with high dry stone walls, the vineyard climbs the 500 meters in altitude from Visp in the valley to the highest parcel in a very confined space. Hundreds of retaining walls turn the steep slopes into small vineyards. The care and also the grape harvest are pure manual labor.

Es ist Ende September und die letzten Tage der Weinernte. Auf den Bergen liegt erster Neuschnee. Die Trauben werden mit Netzen geschützt / © Foto: Georg Berg
It is the end of September and the last days of the harvest. On the mountains there is the first fresh snow. The grapes are protected with nets / © Photo: Georg Berg

It is the end of September in the highest vineyard in Europe. When the first snow falls on the vines in a few weeks, it sometimes acts as an insulating blanket. In addition, the winter sun also provides long-lasting warmth due to the extreme orientation of the south-facing slopes and the storage capacity of the dry-stone walls.

Einmalige Kulturlandschaft. Im höchsten Weinberg Europas gedeihen Heida, Johannisberg, Fendant, Resi, Pinto Noir, Dole und Dole Blanche / © Foto: Georg Berg
Unique cultural landscape. Heida, Johannisberg, Fendant, Resi, Pinto Noir, Dole and Dole Blanche thrive in Europe’s highest vineyard / © Photo: Georg Berg

The St. Jodern Winery – A Cooperative Society

The cooperative St. Jodern Winery was founded in 1979. It produces about 40 percent red wines and 60 percent white wines with a volume of 400,000 bottles per year. The winery has about 600 members. Smallest plots are often family owned. There is always a succession problem here.

Ende September ist Weinlese in den kleinen Parzellen. Dazu kommen die Familien zusammen und jeder hilft mit. Hier wird gerade Pinot Noir geerntet / © Foto: Georg Berg
At the end of September is grape harvest in the small parcels. For this, the families come together and everyone helps. Here Pinot Noir is being harvested / © Photo: Georg Berg

The work is very arduous on the steep slope. Some families make the harvest a real family event every year, while others have difficulty looking after the vines and carrying out the harvest. For this reason, the cooperative run St. Jodern winery has hired a vineyard foreman.

Anlieferung an der St. Jodern Kellerei. Die Ernte darf nur in den genormten Plastikwannen angeliefert werden. So hat die Genossenschaft die beste Kontrolle und kann mit jedem Mitglied korrekt abrechnen / © Foto: Georg Berg
Delivery to the St. Jodern Winery. The harvest may only be delivered in the standardized plastic tubs. In this way, the cooperative has the best control and can correctly settle accounts with each member / © Photo: Georg Berg

It is grape harvest time in the highest vineyard in Europe. The grape harvest usually stretches over four weeks. The well-known Heida, an ancient light grape variety, has already been harvested. Pinot Noir is harvested by the many members of the cooperative and immediately taken to the reception point of the St. Jodern winery. At times, a small backlog forms almost to the street.

Die Reben, hier Pinot Noir, werden direkt nach der Anlieferung entrappt und gequetscht / © Foto: Georg Berg
The vines, here Pinot Noir, are destemmed and crushed immediately after delivery / © Photo: Georg Berg

The grapes are collected in standardized plastic boxes. This is important because only in this way can their weight and quality be assigned to the respective winegrower upon delivery. The vines are destemmed and crushed immediately after delivery. After the automatic measurement of the degree of oechsle, the delivered harvest of the individual plots is sorted according to variety and quality and processed further.

Der Barriquekeller ist heute auch ein modernen Eventraum  / © Foto: Georg Berg
The barrique cellar is now also a modern event space / © Photo: Georg Berg

Heida and Heida Veritas – top wines with pronounced minerality

The St. Jodern Winery stands for a diverse range of wines. The climate here at the highest vineyard in Europe is both Mediterranean and harsh. The vineyards of Visperterminen are surrounded by the highest Swiss mountains. Due to the folding of the Alps, the soils contain a high minerality in a unique location. Heida wine was named the best white wine in the world in 2014 by the British wine magazine Decanter.

Die Familie der Heida-Weine aus der St. Jodern Kellerei in Visperterminen, Oberwallis / © Foto: Georg Berg
The family of Heida wines from the St. Jodern winery in Visperterminen, Upper Valais / © Photo: Georg Berg.

Heida Veritas and the power of those over 100 years old

For all the superlatives this vineyard has to offer, there is also a living treasure of some 45 hectares of rootless, ungrafted old Heida vines. It is a small miracle at the vineyard, because the vines of Heida Veritas have not been affected by the great phylloxera plague that raged throughout Europe at the end of the 19th century. The vines are from 1907 and the grape is small-berried and very aromatic. Only 3,000 bottles of Haida Veritas are produced in St. Jodern each year. This rare top wine has, as they say here, “real meat on the bone”.

Die wurzelechten Rebstöcke des Heida haben im vorletzen Jahrhundert sogar der Reblausplage widerstanden / © Foto: Georg Berg
The vines of the Heida, which are true to their roots, even withstood the phylloxera plague in the last century / © Photo: Georg Berg

Further information

The St. Jodern Winery in Visperterminen – More about the winery

The Heath Village Visperterminen – Visperterminen Tourism

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The research trip was partly supported on site by Switzerland Tourism

Travel Topics on Tellerrand-Stories

Our mode of operation is characterized by self-experienced, well-researched text work and professional, vivid photography. For all stories, travel impressions and photos are created in the same place. Thus, the photos complement and support what is read and carry it further.

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