On to the letter N in Ollon, to meet François Cordonier, an important figure in the winemaking world. He tells you how nature governed life in the past, and explains work in the vineyards in particular.
François Cordonier, who was born in Chermignon in 1935, is an exciting and passionate figure. Whilst still young, he committed to helping develop agriculture and set off for Chad, where he stayed for 9 years. After this, he travelled to Zaire (the Democratic Republic of Congo), Togo, Niger and Cameroon, amongst other places. He has been just as committed in Valais; in politics, as a member of the Cantonal Council in the 1980s, and also in the world of winemaking, creating the Valais Association of Winemakers, and chairing the Swiss French-speaking Federation and sitting on the Swiss committee.
He can contemplate the vines every day from his home, known as Château Branlant, where he lives with his wife Raymonde. This large wooden house, dating back to 1913 (you can see it to the left below you), belonged to his grandfather. You can still see the remains of the pipe that once took wine to the village square to be transferred into barrels destined for resorts in Upper Valais. It is no doubt the grandeur of the building which is the origin of its ‘château’ nickname, ‘branlant’ (wobbly) refers to the shaky wooden structure, a vestige of the time when, for two months every year, classes from Chermignon moved into the property, and some twenty pupils played on the wobbly wooden balcony. During this time, the rest of the family attended to hard agricultural work, as right up until the 1950s agricultural production – milk, meat, cereals, vegetables and fruit – were destined mainly for family consumption. To ensure the success of these various crops, François’ family owned plots of land at altitudes ranging from 600m to 1,700m. There were periods of the year to sow and to harvest, periods when they would live up on the mountain pastures, and then return to lower altitudes - the year was governed by the rhythms of nature. François remembers the wine harvest particularly well, the sensitivity of the indigenous grapes, rèze, muscat or cornalin, and the tough tasks : « The grape harvest was crushed in the vineyard and carried up to a kilometre or more on men’s backs in 50 litre wooden carriers » , then poured into large barrels destined for Provins or winemaking merchants.
The countryside was very different then, as most of the vines (that you can see in front of you) were just prairies until the 1960s. As a matter of fact, at the time it would have been necessary to extend the vineyards, the subdivision of plots due to inheritances had created plots of land that were too small to exploit. In the same period, work in the vineyards became profitable, and the following decade saw the appearance of the first winemaker-growers.
François has compiled stories of his childhood, his encounters, souvenirs, trips and his convictions in Cheminement, a book which can be read with as much pleasure as listening to grandparents talk about their life in times gone by.
CORDONIER, François, Cheminement, Editions à la Carte, 2011, p.47
In the heart of the vineyards, on the Chemin du Pressoir path, this terrace offers wonderful views of the Rhone Valley.
Sylvie Doriot Galofaro, Samuel Bonvin and Martial Kamerzin will tell you more about the 125 years project and the history of the resort.