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

Gewürztraminer

The name Gewürztraminer is obviously German, although the origin of the grape is the Tyrollean Alps, near the village of Termeno (Tramin) in Alto Adige, Italy. Gewürz is German for spice. The vine is evidently a pain in the ass to grow and does best in cooler climates. In Germany the wine of this grape is often made off-dry, in Alsace it’s dry and floral, and in Switzerland it produces a wide range. Gewürztraminer is one of the most pungent wine varietals and reasonably easy to identify with just your nose. It is one of the few wine that can hold its own with spicy Asian food.

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.

Himbertscha

Himbertscha is one of the rare indigenous white varieties from Haut-Valais, mostly at home in the vineyards of Visperterminen (Upper Valais). The name Himbertscha is said to come from a raspberry (himbeer in German) taste of the wine himbeerartigen. Jose-Marie Chanton who specializes in cultivating the old vines from Wallis makes this wine available under the quality label “Brantignon”. He also cultivates the Himbertscharebe, another “rediscovered” old Walliser white wine.

Drink wine, and you will sleep well. Sleep well and you will not sin. Avoid sin, and you will be saved. Ergo, drink wine and be saved.

Medieval German saying

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

Fine Swiss Wine

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