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

Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains

The Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, is one of the oldest grape varieties still around. It’s linked to the Anathelicon moschaton grape used by the Ancient Greeks, and the Apiane grapevines of the Romans. A white grape, it’s a member of the Muscat family. The name comes from its small berry and tight clusters. it’s called Muscat Canelli in Valais, but also goes under lots of names: Muscat Blanc, Moscato Bianco, Muscat de Frontignan, Muscat de Lunel, Muscat d'Alsace, Muskateller, Moscatel de Grano Menudo, Moscatel Rosé and Sárgamuskotály. Theoretically a white grape, the Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains can also produce berries that are pink or reddish brown.

Arvine

Another delivery from Rome, there are actually three Arvine grape varieties, only two used for wine production: Grand Arvine, with the larger berries, and Petit Arvine, with the, you guessed it, smaller berries. The unloved Arvine brune has faded from the scene. Grand Arvine gets criticized for displaying little character, whereas the Petit Arvine tends to have a fuller bouquet and lower acidity. In blind tasting, Petit Arvine generally kicks ass against its plumper brother. Arvine is also an excellent grape for late harvest wine, which can be cellared.

Räuschling

The Räuschling grape is a very old and probably indigenous Swiss white wine grape. Once fairly common in Switzerland and Alsace, Räuschling got pushed aside by the more useful Müller-Thurgau grape, and today Räuschling is a minor grape. Still found in Alsace, France, and occasionally used in the “Vin d’Alsace”, it still retains quite some respect in the German-speaking parts of Switzerland, most notably in the canton of Zurich, where is is considered a “Zuri-grape”.

It is also planted in Valais.

Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart.

Ecclesiastes

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

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