15 years ago the thought of cider might have brought with it visions of straw-chewing country bumpkins or gangs of wayward teenage girls, but cider has kicked those negative connotations and become something of a global fashion phenomenon. So where does Switzerland fit in? Well, Switzerland grows some of the finest apples you can find, and those fine apples yield deliciously fine apple juice, whether sweet (Süssmost), sour (Apfelwein), or somewhere in-between (Ghürotne: a blend of sweet and sour juice).

An ever-growing selection of brands with ciders ranging between 3.5 and over 10% alcohol makes cider a great alternative to beer. cider_inline1 Jean-Georges premium cider, and the retro hit ‘Swizly’, both from Mosterei Möhl. Thanks to the addition of sugar, flavorings, and carbon dioxide, they are more refreshing and have more popular appeal than traditional Swiss apple wine, and having always put the emphasis on natural purity, Swiss cider breweries wanted nothing to do with those other ‘synthetic’ products. In light of dwindling apple wine sales and the rapid emergence of alcopops, it became necessary to reposition apple wine in particular away from its ‘fruit juice’ image as the drink of Swiss wrestlers and gymnasts in order to reach a younger, hipper market who were making cider fashionable in the UK and elsewhere.

Mosterei Möhl is a cider brewery perfectly situated in the heart of the apple-growing region on Lake Constance. For their 100th anniversary Möhl did something new: they launched ‘Jean-Georges,’ a sparkling cider marketed as the ‘champagne’ of ciders. Secondly, they launched Swizly: the first ‘Apfelwein’ (apple wine) comparable with an English cider, and still a genuinely natural product thanks to the use of elderberry syrup as a sweetener. Swizly’s slightly kitsch, retro appearance and great taste made it a big hit—people hadn’t tasted cider this good for a long time. Co-owner Ernst Möhl recalls: { Worthy of Note: “In order to meet the high demand, we had to go all the way to New Zealand just to get hold of some more elderflowers” }“In order to meet the high demand, we had to go all the way to New Zealand just to get hold of some more elderflowers”

Mosterei Kobelt & Co in nearby Marbach in the Rhine Valley one-upped the retro look of the Swizly with Bartli’s. Their bottles feature a bright and brash label with a variety of rather dubious looking characters you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley—or maybe you would, depending on how many bottles you’ve had! As Switzerland’s smallest cider brewery, Kobelt wanted to show the bigger companies ‘wo Bartli den Most holt’—that’s Swiss for “We’re tough!” They also wanted to stay close to the natural product, and with a hint of bergamot Bartli’s has a special flair that caught on quick. Bartli’s has become a money-spinner in regional ale shops and pubs thanks to the little green bottles with the pictures of the Bartli’s (bearded characters) themselves: the traditional suppliers of the cider brewery. “With all our experience it would be quite laughable if we Swiss couldn’t make juice just as well as England’s big cider breweries with their funny bottles,” says owner Ruedi Kobelt.

Stiff competition from brand giants such as cider_inline2 Bartli’s cider from Kobelt is already attracting attention thanks to its quaint labels. Bulmers, Magners and Strongbow means operating in this market will always be something of a David and Goliath battle, so Swiss domestic breweries have played to their strengths and focused on the quality and purity of their ciders, and also relaunched their home-grown apple juices and wines.

The growing legions of cider fans in Switzerland are wondering whether the latest cider wave, which has been set off in the US in recent years, will spill over into the old continent. Following microbreweries, craft ‘cideries’ are flourishing in the States with over 200 ‘artisan’ ciders, and now that microbreweries have finally celebrated a revival in Switzerland, there’s a lot of hope that small-scale cider producers will too experience such a renaissance.

Must – Juice – Cider

It is not easy for the thirsty consumer to find his way through the many varieties of apple juice, which is in itself a simple product of nature.

  • In fall the fresh juice goes from the press into the bottle completely “unprocessed.”
  • In contrast, most of the commercially available apple juice or “Süssmost” (whether clear or cloudy) comes from the dilution of concentrate and is usually carbonated before being bottled (with the exception of organic apple juice).
  • Sparkling apple juice (“Apfelschorle”) is mixed with carbonated water for more sparkle; the best-known brand, Shorley, consists of 60 % apple juice and 40 % Passugger mineral water. The maximum proportion of pear allowed in any apple juice is 10 %, unless it is a single varietal version (such as Gravenstein).
  • “Süssmost” is added to most of the Swiss apple wines on offer today in order to soften the flavor; fermentation is also stopped with some of these. Both products must be declared to be “teilvergoren” (partly-fermented); their alcohol content is around 4 %, in contrast to the fully fermented, really sour juices with significantly higher percentages by volume.
  • At around 7 %, the little known sparkling apple wines fall into this “Stärkeklasse” (strong category).
  • The counterpart to this is alcohol-free apple wine, from which the alcohol is extracted by means of vacuum distillation.