By, Gian Carlo Casparis, Wine Tours Switzerland
Last week I had an opportunity to talk with two third-generation winemakers – Matthias Gubler and his wife, Sina Moehr, at the Moehr-Niggli Winery in Maienfeld, Graubunden, Switzerland.
Over a glass of Mattias’ flagship Pinot Noir called “Pilgrim,” we discussed the special qualities of Swiss wines, and especially the story of Pilgrim. This is the wine that unites his experiences living and working in wineries around the world, especially in Italy, France, Chile, and California.
Here is the story of this unique and wine full of character: “Pilgrim” is the English and old German word for “Pilger”. When Mattias heard the name for the first time, he was immediately fascinated . “Our work with wine is an actual pilgrimage; constantly in search of the best wine.”
The grapes for Pilgrim come from their family vineyards. They are carefully harvested and sorted by hand. The long maceration period of up to 3 weeks in open wooden vats and further, slow maturation for a minimum of 16 months, give the wine its backbone. It becomes fully mature after three to five years after bottling. The color is a rich cherry red. The flavors: ”A fine flavor paired with a blueberries to black fruit; subtle wood aromas of mocha, light roasting, coconut and cedar. Filling and dense. Fine, cross tannins, pleasant finish.”
Matthias rightfully feels tremendously proud of his wines. Pinot Noir is the most signature variety due to the soil climate and terroirs in the Bündner Herrschaft. A warm wind from the south called “Föhn” helps to mature the grapes in fall. He also attributes other reasons for his region consistently making quality wine: knowledge, education, traveling and living in different regions of the world, taking some risks, changing old habits and having a passion for premium wine. These day you can find premium Swiss wine in every fine dining restaurant in Switzerland.
The Swiss wine industry exports less than 2% of its production. The main reason is the small production of wine in Switzerland and that the Swiss are good consumers of their wine. Matthias’ desire to increase exports is not primarily monetary, but that it would help the image of Swiss wines and would show a different Switzerland besides chocolates and premium watches.
The dominant long-term trends for the wine industry in Switzerland? To produce premium to iconic wines, to focus every year on quality and to make Swiss wine a unique experience.
For the tourism industry, the Grisons Alp with its climate and picturesque valleys are for summer and winter the perfect region to experience nature and culture. Mostly winter tourism has been in focus the past 100 years. Now there is a shifting focus to telling the world about this boutique wine region. Sounds a lot like mixing pleasure with more pleasure.