Swiss Wine Regions

Bern, It's Elementary

Swiss Alps, cows, wine bottle and large clock face in Bern, SwitzerlandWith the exception of the small cooperatives around Spiez, when you speak of the Bern wine region, you are speaking of the area around Lake Biel. Here on the shores of the lake, monasteries and nobles have been making wine since the Middle Ages. With the reformation in the 16th century, ownership ended up in the hands of the state, or the merchants from Bern and Biel. Since then ownership has shifted to the citizens living around the lake.

The main wine sub-regions within the Canton are La Neuveville, Ligerz, Schafis, Schernelz and Twann. The steep incline of many of the vineyards (30% -70%) makes for a lot of manual labor. As a trade-off they profit from catching more sun, including reflections from the lake, which also works to regulate the temperature by storing heat.

More than half the wine is from the Chasselas grape, producing a tingling white wine typical of the region. Another third of the wine is from Pinot Noir, with Müller-Thurgau (Riesling x Silvaner), Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Gewürztraminer making up the rest.

In 1782 the Rebgesellschaft (Grape society) Twann-Ligerz-Tüscherz was founded, which today is the Rebgesellschaft Bielersee, a cooperative to advance both Viniculture and marketing. An A.O.C. has been in place since 1996.

Besides wine, Bern has one or two other attractions. Emmentaler, the famous cheese with the holes in it, comes from Bern. Then there is the scenery, and Bern encompasses some of the most spectacular anywhere. The mostly French-speaking northern half is dotted by lakes, and the German-speaking south is mountainous, containing the “three sisters”, those well known peaks: Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau.

The lakes, peaks, waterfalls and valleys have inspired poets and writers from Goethe to Lord Byron. It is in the Bernese Overland that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes, letting him tumble over the Reichenbach Falls near Meiringen.

The Wine Grapes of Switzerland

Aligot

Originates from Burgundy and spread through France. Originally called “Plant du Rhin” when it was brought to Geneva in the early 1900’s, and is now something of a specialty in Geneva. It was also introduced into Valais as an alternative to Johannisberg, but it didn’t fare so well and today survives in only a few small areas in Unterwallis.

Johannisberg

Second in white wines of Valais (after Fendant). The name Johannisberg is only used in Valais; the rest of French-speaking Switzerland call it Gros Rhin. The grape used to make Johannisberg is the Grüner Sylvaner. The origin of the grape is not clear. On the one hand it strongly resembles the Roman Apianisien (loved by bees) grape, as described by Pliny the Elder in his “Historia naturalis”, on the other hand, its more likely birthplace is in Romanian Transylvania.

Pinot blanc

Pinot blanc is a mutation of Pinot Gris. It may have found its way up the Rhône to Valais with any number of mercenaries returning to Switzerland, and today small quantities are cultivated in many Swiss wine regions. When grown in favorable conditions it produces a fruity wine with good acidity.

Water for oxen, wine for kings.

Spanish Proverb

Swiss Alps, cows, wine bottle and large clock face in Bern, Switzerland

Fine Swiss Wine

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