New in Journal: Spotlight on Switzerland

Catherine Bernard
La Route des Crêtes 2018

I visited Catherine at her tiny winery near Restinclières just north of Montpelier on a hot and arid day in 2019. It was harvest time, less than ideal to visit any winemaker during this period of the year, but Catherine welcomed us with her infectious energy and took the time to talk, explain and meet. A rare graciousness that was sincerely felt. She spoke pragmatically about losing 85% of her harvest the previous year to unseasonably large amounts of rain (mildew) and hail. A brutal end to a years labour. What was salvaged though still retained an elegance and clarity that veins through all of her wines. Catherine is a real joy to be around. There’s a seriousness to the work and the wine but a playfulness to her character. Perhaps a necessary combination to have when working with natures elements, where a weeks worth of weather can decimate a years worth of toil. But like I said she’s a pragmatist.

The winery itself is built from old pallets on an elevation overlooking a vast landscape of grassland with mountains in the distance. An airy, shady and beautiful space which houses a modest press, fiberglass tanks, a testing table and a gentle breeze. All built by her hands. The gravity fed cellar is perfectly adapted for gently transferring to barrel and tank below. I’m always impressed by the ingenuity and hard work of winemakers and Catherine is no exception.

I can tell you she works with the practices of biodynamics in mind and is organically certified. I can also mention that she embarked upon a wine-making path after a divorce at 40 and a career in journalism. Facts like these seem important in the pursuit of humanising the story of winemakers but what really strikes me when I visit winemakers is the details of the spaces they inhabit. The jar of pickled mirabelles on the side next to a fossilised stone. A wry smile after mentioning a terrible incident of losing their fruit. The pride of showing the landscape they’re a part of and the focus and concentration when tasting from barrel. These scenarios play out in various forms all the time and it’s the reason to visit and spend time with anyone pursuing their craft for me. It’s energising and life affirming.

Photo of Catherine Bernard La Route des Crêtes 2018 Bottle

I visited Catherine at her tiny winery near Restinclières just north of Montpelier on a hot and arid day in 2019. It was harvest time, less than ideal to visit any winemaker during this period of the year, but Catherine welcomed us with her infectious energy and took the time to talk, explain and meet. A rare graciousness that was sincerely felt. She spoke pragmatically about losing 85% of her harvest the previous year to unseasonably large amounts of rain (mildew) and hail. A brutal end to a years labour. What was salvaged though still retained an elegance and clarity that veins through all of her wines. Catherine is a real joy to be around. There’s a seriousness to the work and the wine but a playfulness to her character. Perhaps a necessary combination to have when working with natures elements, where a weeks worth of weather can decimate a years worth of toil. But like I said she’s a pragmatist.

The winery itself is built from old pallets on an elevation overlooking a vast landscape of grassland with mountains in the distance. An airy, shady and beautiful space which houses a modest press, fiberglass tanks, a testing table and a gentle breeze. All built by her hands. The gravity fed cellar is perfectly adapted for gently transferring to barrel and tank below. I’m always impressed by the ingenuity and hard work of winemakers and Catherine is no exception.

I can tell you she works with the practices of biodynamics in mind and is organically certified. I can also mention that she embarked upon a wine-making path after a divorce at 40 and a career in journalism. Facts like these seem important in the pursuit of humanising the story of winemakers but what really strikes me when I visit winemakers is the details of the spaces they inhabit. The jar of pickled mirabelles on the side next to a fossilised stone. A wry smile after mentioning a terrible incident of losing their fruit. The pride of showing the landscape they’re a part of and the focus and concentration when tasting from barrel. These scenarios play out in various forms all the time and it’s the reason to visit and spend time with anyone pursuing their craft for me. It’s energising and life affirming.

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