Fascinating viticulture along the Zentralbahn route.
Gofri, Ottiger, Tellen – these are names that do not immediately evoke images of prestigious vineyards. But the unassuming yet lovingly nurtured wines from these regions manage to impress and resonate with both connoisseurs and enthusiasts.
An intoxicating view. The vineyards in Gofri reveal a world of the unexpected. The scenery with Lake Brienz, the imposing peaks across the lake and the gnarled vines of the vineyard combine to create an unrivalled atmosphere. Just a few years ago, sheep grazed where grapes grow today. Human voices have replaced the bleating of the sheep. Members of a cooperative have now taken control and work on the vineyard on their monthly workdays.
A collaborative project
“We have created an exciting joint project”, says the president of the cooperative, Gerhard Fuchs. His handshake is strong, his voice passionate. “A few years ago, master vintner Werner Grossmann had the idea of turning his sheep pasture into a vineyard. Conditions turned out to be ideal: south-east-facing slopes, optimal thermal conditions thanks to the proximity to the lake, protection from the cold winds from the Brünig, stony and barren soil that challenges the vines. After a few years of loose cooperation between colleagues, we recognised that forming a cooperative was the solution for us.” Grossmann also contributed 2,600m² of his own land in Gofri. The neighbours were informed and one of them – Beatrice Mardon Eggler – was so enthusiastic about his idea that she made her 7,000m² of land in Chummelen available for further vineyard cultivation. The re-zoning in the vineyard register and the building permit for the terracing followed in 2017, after which the first grape vines were planted. After a full moon night in October 2020, the three-year-old Divico grape vines celebrated their first “Triiblete” (harvest). Almost 200 kilograms of grapes were harvested at a density of 90 degrees on the Oechsle scale. The 70 members of the cooperative were one step closer to their goals of producing high-quality wine and promoting viticulture in the municipality. Today, 550 Divico and 550 Sauvignac vines grow on the unique hillside site.
Close to the land
Werner Grossmann has set an example with his down-to-earth, natural and gentle approach: dry stone walls are built using stones found in the surrounding environment, kites and buzzards keep the mouse population under control and the plants between and around the vines enable them to come to seed. Rare herbs are grown in the stone spiral and form the basis for the symbiosis of wine and food. The hobby group combines many skills and experiences. “We have gardeners, carpenters, bricklayers, teachers and office workers. Although we all lack training as winegrowers, we use a lot of intuition and professional equipment to help our project flourish.”
Ottiger vineyard in Kastanienbaum
Intuition and instinct are also important to Kevin Studer and Denis Koch from the Ottiger vineyard in Kastanienbaum. They took over the company from their predecessor Toni Ottiger at the beginning of 2022. They sit on the veranda and gaze out intently over the broad basin of Lake Lucerne. “It’s important to me that things go the way we planned”, says Studer. The passionate young entrepreneur has very specific ideas about how the hilly area between Weiermatt and Spissen should be developed. The two have considered many scenarios and played through hundreds of ideas in their heads. After their apprenticeships as a gardener and a chef respectively, they both trained as winemakers at the winery in Kastanienbaum, working in various cellars and wineries before they got to know each other and first started to consider a possible joint takeover.
With further training as a viticulture technician under his belt, Studer returned from abroad with a wealth of knowledge and experience. “I was responsible for the outdoor operations and the cellars. One day, I got talking with our predecessor, Toni Ottiger.” Due to his upcoming retirement, Ottiger wanted to pass on the business and was looking for a successor. “You only have to ask me once if I want to take over this business – I would do it immediately”, was Studer’s answer. He realised that he would need a strong partner, both financially and in order to best run the business. He found that partner in Denis Koch. “I always had a good gut-feeling about our cooperation, we discussed long-term mutual conditions and were able to come to a good agreement”, says the co-entrepreneur. While the dynamic management duo is aware of their company’s established name, quality and products, they are complementing the existing range with a new style of wine: natural wines – wines without additives or complex wine-making processes. Their philosophy of “healthy grapes, fermentation and bottling” represents a return to the original approach of how wines were produced for centuries. “The procedure is the same as before but regulated. Back then, people didn’t know what was going on. Today, we can control the process using natural methods.”
They appreciate the great variety in their job, although it is also challenging. “Our activities include working in the fields and in the cellars, vinification, customer service and sales. Switching from one job to another and having to constantly change your mindset is both challenging and interesting”, says Koch. Studer adds: “It’s a huge relief when we’re finished for the autumn and we can look back and see that we were able to do something really cool with all that beautiful fruit.”
Peter Krummenacher also appreciates the varied work of a winemaker. The trained farmer and doctor of law always knew he wanted to become a winemaker. “I took over my parents’ farm with cows and pigs at a young age, completed my A-levels and studied law while continuing to work on the farm. I planted the first vines during this time. We have since stopped farming livestock. Vines have been grown here long before our time, as evidenced by field names such as “Wiibärgli” and “Rebstock” (both Swiss German words for “vineyard”). We’ve been building on this tradition for more than 20 years now.” A good year ago, he gave up practising law to concentrate on wine production. “We have now reached a level of operations that we can live from,” he says, with a mischievous look through his filigree “Chugeli” glasses. It’s not difficult to believe that he enjoys making wine. It’s now his main source of income. He grows the vines together with his wife, Karin Dähler. She is also a professional movement therapist, dedicated to mindful interaction with the body.
Another job that needs a lot of intuition and feeling.
Peter Krummenacher’s approach is unconventional. He completed various courses at the Wädenswil Viticulture Centre. But intuition and learning by doing are just as important to him as what he learned there. “Sharing experiences with other professionals is beneficial. We ask each other questions and learn from one another.” The quality of his instincts is proven by awards such as “Best Central Swiss Wine 2021 - Regent Barrique 2018”. “The wine is actually made in the vineyard. You need ripe, healthy grapes. Once these most important conditions have been met, the winemaking processes in the cellar, from fermentation to bottling, simply need to be carefully regulated. This is how we turn all that hard, manual labour into success.” In addition to the vines in Tellen, Peter Krummenacher also grows grapes on the Landenberg hill in Sarnen and around the church in Sarnen. You can tell that Krummenacher is a skilled winemaker and wine lover from his response when asked about his favourite wine-growing regions in Switzerland and abroad: “I like it anywhere vines grow.” He seems deeply drawn to the atmosphere of winegrowing regions. But he is also very comfortable at home. The smart Obwalden house at the heart of the Tellen vineyard is the centrepiece of the property. As well as working there, the Krummenacher-Dähler winegrowing couple enjoy relaxing in this beautiful house.
Man braucht ein «Gspiiri»
Peter Krummenacher ist unkonventionell unterwegs. Diverse Kurse absolvierte er im Weinbauzentrum Wädenswil. Ihm sind jedoch ein gutes «Gspiiri» und das Learning by Doing ebenso wichtig wie das Gelernte. «Der Erfahrungsaustausch mit anderen Berufsleuten ist förderlich, wir fragen uns gegenseitig und entwickeln uns weiter.» Dass er ein gutes Gespür hat, zeigt sich unter anderem an Auszeichnungen wie beispielsweise «Bester Zentralschweizer Wein 2021 – Regent Barrique 2018». «Der Wein entsteht eigentlich im Rebberg. Du brauchst reife, gesunde Trauben. Sind diese wichtigsten Voraussetzungen gegeben, müssen im Grunde nur die önologischen Prozesse im Keller von der Gärung bis zur Abfüllung sorgfältig begleitet werden. So lässt sich die grosse Handarbeit in Erfolg ummünzen.» Neben den Rebstöcken im Tellen lässt Peter Krummenacher auch auf dem Landenberg in Sarnen und rund um die Sarner Kirche Trauben wachsen. Dass Krummenacher ein tüchtiger Weinmacher und liebhaber ist, merkt man an seiner Antwort nach «seinem» schönsten Weinbaugebiet in der Schweiz und im Ausland: «Mir gefällt es überall, wo Reben wachsen.» Die Atmosphäre von solchen Regionen scheint eine grosse Anziehungskraft auf ihn zu haben. Auch zu Hause ist es ihm durchaus wohl. Das schmucke Obwaldner Wohnhaus inmitten des Weinguts Tellen bildet den Dreh und Angelpunkt. Neben der Arbeit, die verrichtet wird, erholt sich das Winzerpaar Krummenacher-Dähler gerne in diesem wunderschönen Haus.
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