Valais, the Alpine canton of Switzerland, home to the famous Matterhorn and renowned skiing resorts, has a well-deserved and longstanding reputation for wonderfully distinctive food.
If your idea of Swiss food is cheese, chocolate, and potatoes, you’ll be pleasantly surprised in Valais, where the rich tradition, agricultural abundance and the vibrant talent of locals bring out the best in all culinary aspects.
I spent three days discovering local farms, trying regional food and after this trip I can tell you one thing – on any culinary tour of Switzerland, Valais in my opinion is a must-see destination.
Sharing the most important flavours of this beautiful region with some tips on where to experience them below:
If you think of Swiss food you probably imagine Fondue and Raclette. Both are quite a thing here in Switzerland and Valais is home to the famous Raclette cheese. Raclette comes from the word “racler”, which means “scrape” in the local French dialect. Scrape because, once the cheese has melted on a fire, it is gently scraped from the cheese wheel. It is a special culinary treat- just as delicious during the winter as it is experienced in summer and eaten with potatoes and pickles. Yearly, the cheesemakers of Valais produce a total of 2,000 tons of raclette cheese – and more every year.
Our first stop of the trip was at Laiterie d’Orsieres, where we learned about the cheese-making process. This is where they make the King of Valais – famous Raclette du Valais AOP. Valais is the only place where raclette cheese has been made from unpasteurized raw milk for centuries without alternation and it was such an interesting experience to watch this process.
At Laiterie d’Orsieres they also make other cheese varieties, the Tomme, Serac or Rebibes d’Orsieres and you can learn about the differences of each type. It’s such an interesting experience and I really recommend stopping by to widen your cheese knowledge. Laiterie has also a small shop, where you can buy cheese and other regional specialties and a cute restaurant, where you can try the cheese they produce in form of Fondue or Raclette – we visited in the morning and had a brunch made with local products and of course the cheese.
You can find more information about their offer HERE. More info about the cheese-making tours HERE (in French).
If you guys want to try a raclette dinner served in a real Valais style – I recommend Chateau de Villa in Sierre. The restaurant is in an old castle with beautiful mountain views and you can try a few different types of cheese. The flavours vary depending on the location of the cows. My favourite was “Bagnes 4”. I really loved it there and it was my first time eating raclette in such way. Linking the website HERE.
Website with more information about raclette and cheese experiences HERE.
2. Valais Rye Bread
Rye is the only type of grain which can adapt to extreme climatic conditions (the cold of winter, heavy snowfalls, summer heat and drought) and high altitudes. The conditions in Valais are highly favourable: mountainous terrain, high elevation and extreme temperatures. Rye has been harvested in the Valais for centuries and Valaisians turn their rye into delicious bread. In former times the villagers fired communal ovens two or three times per year so they needed to develop a type of bread that would last for several months – the incomparable Valais rye bread.
We visited a comunal oven in the beautiful Alpine village of Vallèges. Back in 1800, the village had 5 communal ovens, but only one has been preserved and is still in use. It was so much fun. Won’t lie if I say that I was totally in my element there – I love baking and learning on how to make bread that has been made in exactly the same way for centuries. It was a unique and amazing experience. The communal oven offers classes and workshops in case you want to become a baker for a day while in the region. Linking the website with more info HERE.
More tips on where to experience the rye bread baking HERE.
Once the summer season starts, you see these beauties everywhere – At Saturday farmer markets, seasonal dishes at the restaurant and local supermarkets. They are quite a big thing here in Switzerland – eaten fresh on-the-go, in a summer dish, made into jams, juices, skincare products, liquors and even wines – the Princess of Valais, with its velvety skin, sweet and sour taste and orangey-red colour can be enjoyed in many ways.
On the second day of our trip we visited the O Faya Farm, where the apricots grow on a slope near Saxon, right in the heart of Valais. (The region has an ideal climate to grow high quality fruit and 96% of Swiss apricots are from here.
It was such a cool experience to pick the fruits, learn about the harvest, the tradition and also to try the delicious apricot based dishes from La Cabine in Sion.
Followed the Apricot farm experience we headed to Martigny – home to Distillerie Morard, where they turn delicious local fruits into liqueurs, lemonades, sirups, brandies and eaux-de-vie (including the renowed Abricotine). The Distillerie Louis Morand is producing alcohols and sirups for over 130 years and still do it according to the recipes developed by its founder in the late 19th century – the distillery with a devotion to tradition, together with its expertise and thirst for quality is strongly tied to the region of Valais. Such a cool experience – not only did we learn about the history of the brand, but also got to try the products and they were beyond tasty. You can pop to their store in Martigny to try what they have on offer, or simply shop online if you want a piece of Valais in your home.
4. Valais Perch
The perch fillets certified Valais brand are notable for their firm, but tender meat and their mineral flavour: the fish grow in pure, fresh mineral water from the Lötschberg massif. They are farmed using innovative methods respectful of animal welfare and without the use of antibiotics or other medication. The result: a Valais product that is exceptional in terms of quality and freshness.
We visited La Perche Loë – a fish farm where the perch is raised in spring water and we got to learn how to make some delicious dishes with this fish – you can find tasty recipes with the Valais perche HERE.
With vineyards covering 5,000 hectares, Valais is actually the largest wine-making region in Switzerland: magnificent landscapes with unusually sunny hillsides, grows almost 60 grape varieties that form the basis for a number of great wines, and traditions that lend them character and identity.
A definite highlight of the trip was our visit to Domaines Chevaliers in Salgesch. It is so beautifully located – with vineyards all around, a lovely villa in front and its alpine backdrop – we were lucky to experience it on a warm sunny day. We had a wine tasting there and got to try a variety of their wines. They were all so tasty! The rich soil of the region makes it possible to produce high quality wines with as rich of a character, as the vines thrive fully under the sunny climate and warm terrain.
If you guys are in Valais – save this spot for some high quality wine tasting – they are open from Monday-Saturday and I am leaving you a link HERE.
I hope you guys enjoyed this little culinary journey I took you on. You can find more information about products from Valais HERE.
This post was written in paid collaboration with Valais Tourism. All opinions are authentically my own.