"Grappa or Berta?" Attentive service staff rightly ask their guests this question. Because Berta is considered the "noble forge" among distilleries. Grappas for every taste are produced at the distillery, which is located in the Monferrato region with a great view. They are bottled in specially created designer bottles. The noble brandies have sounding names like Mito delle Ore, Tre Soli Tre or La Musa and reveal an almost unbelievable variety of aromas.
To welcome us, the brothers Gianfranco (†) and Enrico Berta hand us a Monprà, which is also enjoyed in renowned Zurich restaurants. Berta's grappas are so popular north of the Alps that Switzerland has become the second most important market for the traditional family business from Piedmont. Gianfranco wants to show us the inner sanctum of Berta. We follow him into a cathedral-like vault deep underground. The air is cool and permeated with a wonderful grapey scent. A fascinating light show makes the vaults glow alternately green, blue, magenta and delicate pastel colours, accompanied by soft classical music. Enchanting! We gladly let ourselves be captured by this atmosphere, gliding as if weightlessly past the 7000 neatly stacked barrels. You can literally feel how the noblest and most precious grappas are maturing inside. Gianfranco Berta, who just a moment ago greeted us with a sonorous, loud voice outside, now speaks quietly, reverently, as if he doesn't want to disturb the harmony down here unnecessarily. "Without the factors of silence and time, grappa does not find its character!" The bearded expert seems to me like an alchemist who refines the grape marc - the waste product of grape pressing - into liquid gold.
"Without the factors of rest and time, grappa doesn't find its character."
Gianfranco "Gian" Berta
We taste a cuvee of Barbera and Moscato, the Riserva Di Lidia. It reminds of Gianfranco's mother Lidia, who, in the 50ies and 60ies, bought wooden barrels in which Marsala or local red wines used to be stored. Her intuition told her that unexpected aromas would develop in them. How right the lady was! There is also history in Grappa Marisa: Berta created it especially for Marisa Vergani, Reto's mother. A unique expression of the friendship and the intergenerational collaboration between the two families.
A sense of tradition plays an important role in this profession anyway: grappa alchemist Gianfranco Berta has therefore founded the guild of the
"Acquavitieri Italiani" according to the medieval model, of which he is the grand master. Master of Ceremonies Samantha Panza designs colourful historical robes for the illustrious knights and ladies of the guild. Foreigners are only admitted if they have made a special contribution as representatives of Italian noble spirits: Reto Vergani is the only Swiss whom the Acquavitieri have ever knighted. By his own admission, however, he does not attach any importance to the title "Cavalliere", which is appropriate for his rank.
Text: Damian Zingg | Picture: Berta | Source: Vergani Magazine 5