On the northwestern edge of Germany’s Swabian Alps, the steep escarpment known as the Albtrauf is a magnificent landscape—forests and meadows are scattered with a incredible diversity of ancient varieties of fruit trees: plum, apple, cherry and mirabelle.
But one of the most interesting features is the extraordinary diversity of pears: Over 300 varieties thrive here, with trees aging from 100 to 250 years old. Here the pear variety Champagner Bratbirne can also be found, which has been used to produce sparkling wines for more than two centuries, about 50 years before the birth of German sparkling wines from grapes.
This sparkling pear wine is produced using the complex traditional method, the same used for Champagne. The mature pears are carefully milled after harvest (which normally takes place from September to October), and the juice is cold fermented, slowly and gently, for nearly three months. The wine is bottled with sugar and yeast and the second fermentation takes place. The wine remains in the bottle at least nine months before disgorging.
The pear itself has a relatively high content of tannins and a solid, astringent flesh, which makes it inedible when raw. It’s therefore all the more astonishing that the resulting sparkling wine is light, unexpectedly delicate and subtle. The wine impresses with a long finish and a flavor of ripe pears, as well as slight notes of nutmeg and cherry. It is made semi-dry, dry, brut and extra brut and can be enjoyed as a dessert wine, an aperitif or as an accompaniment to fish, veal or poultry dishes.
To protect this rare wine, the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity created a Presidium, a project that safeguards products by working directly with producers. The Presidium’s main goal is to preserve and support the cultivation of the Champagne Bratbirne, of which only 800 are registered.
The Presidium involves both pears growers and wine producers. It aims to take a census of the trees and varieties of local pears, plant new trees and protect old ones, develop a production protocol, involve more producers, and train young people who are interested in this product.
Find out more about Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity projects.