The wind whips through vineyards clinging to the steep south-facing terraces overlooking the Rhône valley. Most of the vineyards in Valais are between Martigny and Leuk, and peaking at 1’100 Meters in Visperterminen (Oberwallis), they are among the highest and most dramatic vineyards in Europe.
With an average rainfall of 600 mm, water can be scarce too. But with irrigation, sometimes still the traditional wood canals called “Bisses”, and the benefit of over 300 sunny days a year, plus the help of the infamous Föhn*, Valais produces a wide range of world-class wines. With over 60 grape varieties used, this is perhaps the most eclectic of Swiss wine regions.
Valais is the third biggest Canton in Switzerland, and the biggest wine region: over 50 Kilometers long, it stretches from German-speaking Oberwallis to the French-speaking Unterwallis.
With Sion as its center, the principle wine areas are Ardon, Chamoson, Conthey, Fully, Leuk, Leytron, Martigny, Muraz, Ort, Salquenen (Salgesch), Sierre, Sion, St. Pierre-de-Clages, Vétroz and Visp. An AOC-System was introduced in 1993.
* a warm southerly wind said to cause headaches and erratic behavior.