Founded in 1967 by Claude Nobs, the Montreux Jazz Festival has become one of the world’s most important cultural events, attracting 250,000 visitors annually.
Although jazz music may have constituted the festival’s historic roots, other musical styles have today found their place within it. Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, Marvin Gaye, Prince, David Bowie and Steven Wonder are just a handful of artists who have staged memorable performances at the popular spectacle. Remarkably, the festival had recorded every last detail of each concert, and the resulting archival collection has been listed by UNESCO as part of the “Memory of the World” programme since 2013.
The audiovisual archives are kept at Le Picotin, the chalet which belonged to Claude Nobs between 1936 and 2013. It was a great privilege not only to see them but also to discover the chalet which is now owned by the Claude Nobs Foundation. The mythical place is full of musical memorabilia from decades gone by, as well as retro pieces of furniture and items collected by the artist. With genuinely jaw-droppingly stunning views over Lake Geneva and the mountains, one can imagine the inspiration Claude would have got when producing his music.
Affectionately known as the Montreux Riviera, the town of music, it is also a region which is equally famous for a range of other leisure, cultural and sporting activities. Nestling between lakes and mountains, it makes a great place to visit all year round and an excuse to stay beyond the festival. In between soaking up the party atmosphere of the two-week-long festival, and lapping up the comforts of the five-star Fairmont Le Montreux Palace Hotel, we had a chance to explore the area.
A stroll around any vineyard is always a pleasant one, but the extraordinary beauty of the Lavaux landscapes makes it even more so. The place is also often called “The land of three suns”: the sun in the sky, from which the steep hillsides derive great benefit; the sun in the lake, which serves as a mirror; and the sun in the walls, which store up the warmth.
Extraordinarily well set out, overhanging the lake between Lutry and Montreux, this splendid terraced vineyard produces vintages with subtle aromas, mostly chasselas, a particularly fruity wine, both dry and heady. Since the sub-soil of this region is highly varied, each wine has its own character depending on its appellation. Generations of winegrowers have been applying cultural traditions here since the grapes were first grown by 11th-century monks.
We had the pleasure of meeting organic winegrower, Blaise Duboux, for some wine tasting. The Duboux family have been winemakers for seventeen generations spanning 500 years. With so many people in the business using chemicals to boost their grapes, it was interesting to hear that Duboux has always chosen the organic path for his produce. He even works with the moon to calculate the best times to pick the grapes and water them. He swears that his method has a huge impact on taste. I certainly didn’t have any problems indulging in a glass of Calamin – a pure chassler from the Lac Leman area.
The Lake Geneva region – and this is even truer for Montreux Riviera region – is numbered among the most famous areas in the world when it comes to dining. A dream destination for gourmets and wine lovers alike, the area boasts more than 20 first class restaurants with countless Gault Millau points and Michelin stars. And the food certainly didn’t disappoint throughout our stay, from our light and filling lunch at the Fairmont’s Jazz café, to the lavish cocktail dinner spread at the festival. We even had a chance to squeeze in a lunch at the Auberge de la Gare in Grandvaux before heading back to the airport. The restaurant is known for its perch fillets and steak tartare, but whatever you choose from the menu, you’re guaranteed a great atmosphere and superb views of the lake and the Alps from its terrace. And you can never get bored of those.
Montreux – How and where
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