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A hiking trail through the vineyards above the shores of Lake Murten connects several of the lakeside towns where wine can be tasted in local wineries.
A hiking trail through the vineyards above the shores of Lake Murten connects several of the lakeside towns where wine can be tasted in local wineries. (Photos by Leah Larkin/Special to Stars and Stripes)
A hiking trail through the vineyards above the shores of Lake Murten connects several of the lakeside towns where wine can be tasted in local wineries.
A hiking trail through the vineyards above the shores of Lake Murten connects several of the lakeside towns where wine can be tasted in local wineries. (Photos by Leah Larkin/Special to Stars and Stripes)
A sign shows the way to the wine trail through the Vully vineyards.
A sign shows the way to the wine trail through the Vully vineyards. ()

We drink this wine all the time, from early morning till late at night," Elisabeth Ruegsegger said with a smile. Not that the inhabitants of Vully, Switzerland’s smallest wine growing area, are alcoholics. Ruegsegger, director of the area tourist board, simply meant that it’s not uncommon for locals to enjoy a glass of the excellent wine any time of the day.

Last spring after a visit to the enchanting medieval town of Murten on the shores of Lake Murten, I took a boat ride across the lake to hike through vineyards and join a group for a tasting at Château de Praz, one of Vully’s 16 wineries.

Christine Chervet, who runs the winery with her husband and daughter, told us about the vintages of the area noted primarily for its steely white wines.

"This is my favorite. I love this Riesling Sylvaner," she said as she filled our glasses. It’s also known by the name Müller-Thurgau, and one of the region’s specialty wines, as well as one of the nine kinds of wines the Chervets produce.

French-speaking Vully is in the Fribourg region of central Switzerland. The climate is temperate, the soil is sandy and grapes thrive on the sunny slopes of Mont Vully. Vully whites, usually dry, are often served as aperitif wines, but they make a great accompaniment to lake fish, as well as those Swiss favorites, fondue and raclette.

The Chervet family has about 30 acres of vineyards producing 70,000 liters of wine each year. Sixty percent of its wines are made from the Chasselas grape, which grows primarily in Switzerland, where it is the most important grape for white wine. But they do produce some red, namely Pinot Noir.

"When we’re older we prefer red wine," Chervet said. "White wine keeps you awake and makes you hungrier. We don’t like to eat a lot. Red wine is good for the digestion. Everything is changing. Red wine is served with everything now."

We tasted a 2008 Pinot Noir that had been bottled just two weeks earlier. Like all the Chervets’ wines, it is only sold locally. "Most of our customers wait until Easter to buy wines from the previous year," Chervet said. "The wines are best a year later. We never have enough wine, so it is consumed quickly."

We ended our tasting with a Gewürztraminer. "Tell me what your think," asked our hostess. "It’s late harvest, but different here. It’s more subtle than a Gewürztraminer from Alsace."

We thought it was delicious, and told her so. We also agreed with Ruegsegger. We’d have no problem sipping a glass any time of the day.

Photojournalist Leah Larkin lives in France and can be contacted through www.leahlarkin.com, or her blog at www.provencetales.typepad.com.

Know and GoChâteau de Praz has been linked to wine and grapes for some 500 years. François Chervet, Christine’s husband, is the fourth generation of his family to run the winery.

Their daughter, Marylene, earned her diploma in oenology in 2005. "All young vintners today study oenology," Christine Chervet said. "Before, they learned from their parents."

I recently called Chervet to get a report on the 2009 vintage. "It was one of our best harvests," she announced. "It was a real pleasure to see and pick the grapes. We were able to pick the grapes at the last moment when the grapes were very sweet."

More information on Château de Praz wines is available at www.chateaudepraz.ch. More information on Vully wines can be found at www.vin-vully.ch. Both are in French and German.

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