Marcus Bratter takes us on a tour of the vineyards of Valais by Bike
Riding through the vineyards of the Valais is a pastime that is not without risk. I have yet to be pulled over and breathalysed on my bike, but I must admit had this happened, I would probably have my bike confiscated and a slap on the wrist from the local authorities. Beyond riding under the influence there are itinerant birds that can poop on your head, rivers you can fall into or fellow cyclists that actually ignore the cellar door stops and ride quickly past at destabilising speeds. Also, you might actually get lost. But seriously, riding through the vineyards here is great fun. Many of the winemakers have open tasting rooms and the villages have cooperatives running tasting bistros or restaurants presenting a choice of the local winemaker’s best wines.
There is a well-marked trail starting in Martigny and ending in Leuk, which is past Sierre, well into the “other side” of the Valais where they speak German, and make great wines too. The route is clearly sign posted “Route 72, Chemin du Vignoble”. You can take the train to any point along the way and cycle back to your starting point. The key thing to remember is, in summer, the wind in the valley that starts around 11am and blows toward Sion and Leuk from the lake. So plan your cycling with this in mind. A great thing to do is cycle west in the moring, east in the afternoon or catch the train back to your starting point. Swiss trains are bike friendly but remember you need a ticket for your bike as well.
From Martigny the trail is flat until you get to Conthey and follows the river after it becomes a bit more up and down and climbs through the vineyards with a maximum of a 400M vertical climb to get up to the highest point which is Grimisaut, so an electric bike might be called for.Almost every village has a dedicated “caveaux”. The first is just before Fully, over the river from Martigny at the Fol’terres, then ride up to Saillon and visit the Caveau de Sion, drop into the Caveau de Chamoson then continue on to visit the underground tasting rooms of Jean René Germanier in Vetroz and finish with a big push through to Sierre for visit to the “not to be missed” Oenothèque du Château de Villa.Now if you’re ready to head home jump on the train back to Martigny, otherwise get out the dictionary and head into swyzerdeutch land.
Visit the Musee du Vin in Salgesch cycle on to Varen and finish in Leuk. By now I think your gear changing is starting to get sloppy and it’s time for a taxi. Good luck, happy cycling and be adventurous with your tasting there is a lot to discover.