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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
The St. Jodern Winery in Visperterminen – More about the winery
The Heath Village Visperterminen – Visperterminen Tourism
The research trip was partly supported on site by Switzerland Tourism