By Giampaolo Zuliani
A landscape that surprises for its beauty and history is to be found in a Swiss Alpine valley, the Valais, which captures the attention of the wine lover visitor also due to the quality of the wines produced in that area. The architect Charles-André Meyer is a passionate and attentive connoisseur of these places and has made himself available to answer some questions about the Valais landscape.
Can you broadly describe the Valais landscape?
In particular, I would like to describe the centre of the Valais, excluding the lateral valleys, which are perpendicular to the course of the Rhone River. I would specifically like to narrow down the description, by excluding those two areas which are different from the central environment, although they belong to the Valais: the upper valley called Goms (Conches in French) which, although very beautiful, consists of a mountainous landscape of medium altitude. The lower part of the valley that goes from Martigny, following a very narrow path, towards Lake Lemano (Lake Geneva), then spreads on to the plain near Chablais. The central Valais valley, therefore, is made up of three distinct and characteristic areas: an alpine plain, two sides, one facing north (the reverse) and the other south (the hillside) and a crown of mountains at the highest point. The plain, where the Rhone flows, is heavily urbanized. In recent years, there was the risk of a concrete urban sprawl that could have transformed the Valais plain into an uninterrupted, complete urban agglomeration. For this reason, restrictions have been applied to avoid development, with an integrated management of the urban environment. This ensures a sustainable territorial planning. The lower portion of the hillside facing south is almost completely covered with vineyards, while the hillside facing north has a lower presence of vineyards. However, the combination of the two sides gives a general impression of a vast area, entirely planted with vines, which covers an area of about 5000 hectares (equivalent to about half of the vineyard area of the Chianti Classico). Above the vineyards, there is the intermediate area with forests, alternated with pastures and chalets. Finally, in the upper parts there are the Alpine mountains with their ski resorts.