One of the most visited landmarks in Switzerland, Château de Chillon — located near Montreux on the shores of Lake Geneva — also has opportunities during the year to learn about and sample medieval cuisine. My family and I recently visited this famous castle on a cool and foggy Saturday for the Christmas festivities as part of Féerie Médiévale. Here’s a summary from our visit and information about how you can take advantage of food-focused activities at the castle.
A Hearty Medieval Meal
While Château de Chillon doesn’t usually have a restaurant onsite, it catered a medieval-style feast for visitors to its annual Christmas festivities, this year running every weekend in December and ending on December 20, 2015.
For lunch, we had steaming bowls of vegetable soup served with pieces of pain paysan and meat pies made with flaky puff pastry. My husband opted for a large slice of terrine made with sanglier (wild boar).
I had a plate full of sliced ham, roasted on a spit and garnished with a delicious onion relish, along with a large serving of lentils. We all enjoyed our food in the large dining room of the castle next to a massive fireplace.
For dessert, we found a table full of generous portions of apple tart and pain d’épices (gingerbread). My favorite was the creamy tarte au vin cuit, with hints of apple, pear and caramel.
Winemaking at Château de Chillon
A centuries-old history of winemaking at Château de Chillon has been recently revived. In 2011, the Fondation du Château de Chillon started producing wine under the Clos de Chillon label. The grapes are grown nearby in the historic Lavaux region, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the barrels of wine are stored in the castle’s cellar — the former prison cell of François Bonivard, which inspired Lord Byron’s famous poem, The Prisoner of Chillon.
Currently, the castle is producing a red wine (a blend of Gamaret, Garanoir and Merlot) and a white wine (Chasselas). You can find these wines for sale at the castle’s gift shop or you can place an order online. Profits from the sale of this wine will support conservation and restoration work at Château de Chillon — a worthy cause in my opinion for this impressive Swiss landmark.
Culinary Events at Château de Chillon
If you missed this year’s Féerie Médiévale, Château de Chillon has other opportunities to experience medieval cuisine throughout the year. For example, it will host a cooking workshop for children this spring. You can also participate in a wine-tasting after attending a guided tour. Here are the details:
- Cooking Workshop – Get cooking (in French): Tuesday, 29 March 16 from 10:00 – 12:30 for children ages 8 to 12 years.
- Guided tours and wine-tastings: You can arrange a guided tour (50 or 80 minutes in length) for up to 30 people, which ends with a tasting of Clos de Chillon wines.
- Féerie médiévale – December 2016: An annual holiday tradition at the Château de Chillon during the weekends leading up to Christmas in December, there is a cafeteria during the event serving medieval cuisine.
- Château du Chillon (in English, French and German)
- Le blog au Château de Chillon: If you’re interested in learning more about medieval cuisine at Château de Chillon, I would recommend checking out its blog (in French). A recent post, “Santé! Le vin au Moyen Âge” describes the production and consumption of wine in the middle ages. It also provides a recipe for hypocras — a sweet, fragrant wine made with fresh ginger, honey and assorted spices like cinnamon sticks, whole cloves and cardamom pods.
- Chillon Castle, MySwitzerland.com from Schweiz Tourismus
- Château du Chillon, RailAway package from CFF