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Strange Fruit Indeed: in Switzerland, a Pear Tree Grows Brandy

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Money may not grow on trees, but in Switzerland bottles do. In this photograph Cyril Nicod, director of the wine and spirits house of the Sons of U. Germanier, is giving away a trade secret: how his company gets full-grown pears into specialty bottlings of its celebrated brandy. The brandy comes from the Bartlett pear, which in Europe is known as the Williams pear. Germanier named its 86-proof product Le Bon Père William, a delicious bilingual pun.

Every spring 50,000 bottles are fitted over tiny young pears and wired into position—upside down, lest rain and condensation rot them. Despite precautions, storm and various kinds of drang take a heavy toll, leaving a crop of 15,000 to 20,000 bottled pears at harvest time. These are filled with Le Bon Père William and shipped (along with 150,000 pearless bottles) to 47 countries. At present the U.S. is not one of them, since the brandy’s methyl alcohol content exceeds domestic allowance. But a new process has reduced it to permissible levels, and Nicod is awaiting Washington’s okay to start exporting.