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

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.

Vieux Muscat du Pays

A very old small berry Valais grape, difficult to cultivate. It is an aromatic specialty limited almost exclusively to Valais. Some clone or mutation of the Muscat is grown on almost every continent.

Syrah

A classic red grape variety transplanted from the Côtes-du-Rhône area, Syrah is still somewhat of a rarity here and is grown mainly in Valais and on well-exposed slopes. It produces a spicy, deeply colored, elegant tannic wine that ages well.

A remedy for the moroseness of old age.

Plato

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

Fine Swiss Wine

Discover Switzerland’s odd grapes, small producers, and eclectic tastes