Combine high altitudinous scenery with architecture, Oenophiles and a cooperative of some 500 member family vineyards, you start to paint the picture of why this is a must-do pit stop; for foodies; wine lovers; architecture aficionados and those who love an excuse to be local and try the wines.
The winery of St Jodern Kellerei in Switzerland's Brig, in the canton of Valais, has long been recognised as having the highest vineyard in Europe. Conceived by Swiss architectural studio, BAUATELIER12, the building's main filigree structure represents the actual vine, which comes alive particularly at sunset with a specialist lighting atmosphere staged at dusk. They also created the new barrel cellar, which forms the heart of the St. Jodernkellerei. There is space for over 150 oak barrels in the new barrel cellar. From the immediately adjacent lounge area, you can enjoy a view of the newly interpreted Voutenkeller. A work of art made from over 1500 wine bottles creates an almost sacred atmosphere. The designer wine cellar, complete with specially designed pendulums and solid, cast glass coverings for the barrels, is worth the visit. The glass splinters in the walls and glass-cast extra hand-made lights round off the simplicity of the materials.
The Vineyards sit between 650m and 1150m above sea level, it is the Visperterminen vines in particular that sit at the steep tip-top peak, but all of the grapes - Visperterminen and those chilling just below - luxuriate together in the perks of having a year-round continental, Alpine climate - with a view. The vines are exposed to cold, occasionally frosty winters, hot summers and warm, autumnal sunshine, with the heat of the foe favouring the ripening of the late specialities. All of which tends towards the development of deliciously unique, highly prized wines, spanning reds, whites and rosés, under the collective Heida grape variety.
Valais has long been a wine-maker's (and wine drinker's) haven, with archaeologists finding evidence of Celtic viniculture stretching back through the ages, and with some old wine varieties from Valais even originating in areas of France.
Visperterminen itself was originally considered too high – and too difficult to get to – for private owners, so a brave collective of six was formed when a tourist, a lawyer, a banker and three winemakers banded together to re-open the vines and cement a place in Valais – and history – for having Europe's highest vines, poetically called, "the pearl of Alpine wines". St. Jodern Kellerei itself has a lot to offer, too. A cooperative with over 500 members, St. Jodern Kellerei produces wine according to age-old traditions, doing everything by hand.
A 20-minute drive from St. Jodern Kellerei's dizzying heights sits the equally lofty and cool Belle-Époque Hotel de Londres, Brig's spot of English eccentricity meets Swiss design, and a perfect home for urban explorers on their way for a spot of mountain hopping in nearby Zermatt, or of course, hitting those vineyards.