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Son of Johannisberg and Malvoisie

This variety isn’t called Freiburger in reference to the Swiss canton that has adopted it as a specialty but because its birth took place in the German city of Freiburg Im Breisgau. There, Dr Charles Müller (1881, 1955) began undertaking crossbreeding Sylvaner and Pinot Gris (called Ruländer in German). The aim of these experiments was to create varieties more resistant to the various rots.

To understand the process of hybridisation, one has to understand that cultivated vines are hermaphrodite. This means that the flower has both male and femal sexual organs, so that the stock pollinates itself on its own, without any other plants’ intervention. This peculiarity means that a plant from one variety doesn’t evolve and can therefore keep all its characteristics. Sometimes, however, a plant’s stamen can receive, by chance and blown with the wind, pollen from a distant variety. If this variety is different from the fertilized variety, a hybridated grape carrying characteristics of both its parents appears. In most cases, the crossing fails and the specie disappears. However, it sometimes happens that the natural crossbreeding creates an interesting variety that will slowly take over.

The scientists simply reproduce this phenomenon on a large scale. Rather than waiting for chance to do the job, they select two plants whose qualities they want to merge. They transform one of them in a female plant by cutting all the stamens and place it in contact with the other plant’s pollen. This operation gives them seeds that they put in a greenhouse to accelerate the maturation process. As the hybrids grow, they select the most interesting plants. With a little chance, one of the young plants will give nice grapes. Nonetheless, one has to know that most of the results have absolutely no interest and that thousands of trials are necessary to get the perfect crossbeeding.That is what Dr Müller achieved at the beginning of the 20th century with is hybrid of Sylvaner and Pinot Gris.

In 1916, the scientist plants the first shoots of a new hybrid : Freiburger, in reference to its hometown. A few years later, his first harvest takes place. The efforts appear fruitful and the variety begins to spead over southern Germany. In parallel, progresses made in the research for Pinot Gris clones exceed the expectations and make the newcomer useless. The interest in this variety quickly drops. Victim of the progresses mande in the clonage technique, Freiburger doesn’t go beyond the stage of rarity cultivated in some wine-growing regions of Bade-Wurtemberg and Switzerland.

In the 60s, Freiburger needs to change name because the European law prohibits a variety to be named after a place name. It officially becomes Freisamer. But as Switzerland isn’t part of the European Community, the Swiss producer don’t need to respect this decree and the variety can keep its original name.

If Freiburger appears in Western Switzerland, it’s thanks to the brilliant Louis Chervet, winemaker in Praz. He explains that during an internship in the Federal Station of Wädenswil, in Zürich, one of his masters, Mr Huber showed him the new variety. The professor then had an intuition told him that the variety should like it in the Vully region. The information didn’t get lost and Louis Chervet undertook some trials in 1951 with Freiburger. The yields were regular, the wine pleasant and some daring winemakers planted this German hybrid on their grounds. Since then, Freiburger has taken over as a must of canton Fribourg’s vineyard.

Alexandre Truffer
Translated by Réjane Piatti
RomanDuVin 2010


Practical information
Freiburger, an obscur specialty from Fribourg
The pearl of the Vully fribourgeois

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