Once upon a time – and not so long ago – you would have to visit a wine producer or go to a ‘caveau des vignerons’ in a wine-producing village to sample the wines of Suisse romande. While this traditional approach remains a well-trodden path, a more contemporary and consumer-friendly concept is starting to make its mark. Over the past five years the wine bar (‘bar à vins’) has established itself here as a welcome and welcoming alternative for going out with friends to enjoy a glass or two of wine and even a light bite to eat.
While the producer’s cellar or village ‘caveau’ is somewhat clichéd in appearance and cool in temperature, the new generation of wine bars is typically modern in design and warm in atmosphere. The focus is on providing a consumer experience that is at least as satisfying as the quality of the wines. This fresh approach to the enjoyment of wine should make most of these establishments an attractive place to go. But it seems that many of the wine bars in this part of Switzerland are frequented largely by locals and tourists rather than by the expats who live here.
The Café des Arts in Nyon, right opposite the Hotel Beau Rivage, offers a range of around 30 premium quality wines. Evidence of the focus on quality is the state-of-the-art Enomatic dispensing system, which ensures the quality of each glass served. While the majority of the list is Swiss from the cantons of Geneva, Vaud and Valais, there are fine examples from France, Italy and Spain as well as occasional selections from the New World and several great Champagnes. The comfortable wine lounge with its dark décor, candlelight and bold works of modern art is an invitation to spend a relaxing evening with friends. Sitting at the bar lets you get to know the owner Patrice, who has some great ideas for making the wine selection (which changes every three months) even more special.
At the other end of the lake, just five minutes from the Aigle motorway exit, the Badouxthèque in Yvorne is an enterprising creation by the wine producer Badoux Vins. This wine bar comes as something of a surprise since the exterior of the building, converted from an old garage, provides few clues as to the pleasantly large space on the inside. Whether you sink into an armchair or sofa, sit up at the bar, perch at a high table or settle at a dinner table, Anik and Olivier Cuche are ready to serve you any of the 20+ wines produced by the Badoux estate. This wide choice of white, rosé and red wines includes the Aigle Les Murailles, one of the reference wines in the region, and means that there is always something to discover, even if no other producer’s wines are on the list.
For yet another variation on the wine bar concept the Lavaux-Vinorama in Rivaz offers by far the most extensive selection of wines, numbering more than 250 from 150 different wine producers exclusively in the Lavaux region. This wine bar may have found its place as a stop on the tourist itinerary. But it is still the simplest solution for tasting your way round the region and avoids the need to visit the plethora of producers one by one. Not only is it a showcase for the rich variety of wines produced in Lavaux, but it is also a great place to learn more about one of the few wine-producing areas in the world to have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The setting of this wine bar is fairly intimate but, in the absence of any lounge area, you may find the best way to sample the many vinous delights is to make short but frequent visits.
Each wine bar serves a range of cold meat and cheese selections and, in some cases, tartares of steak or salmon. These can easily satisfy hungry appetites and also pair nicely with the wines. Check out each website for more details, including their opening times:
Simon Hardy holds the Diploma in Wines & Spirits, the top qualification at the Wine & Spirit Education Trust in the UK. He is the founder of Fitting Wines, which provides a range of personalised wine services in Switzerland. Contact Simon at www.fittingwines.com.