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Sober Swiss develop a nose for homegrown wines

There are around 22,000 winegrowers in Switzerland

(Keystone)

The Swiss may be drinking less wine than they did five years ago, but when they do pick up a bottle it tends to be of a homegrown vintage.

A survey by Swiss Wine Communication, the industry’s promoting agency, found that 70 per cent of those polled consider Swiss wine to be of high quality.

Seventy-seven per cent said imported wines were no better than Swiss vintages.

In a similar study carried out five years ago, only 55 per cent of respondents awarded high marks to homegrown wine.

Jürg Bussmann of the promoting agency said the survey showed that efforts to promote Swiss wine had been successful.

“We [also] have to continue our promotion efforts,” he said.

Consumer habits

Around 75 per cent of the just over 3,000 people surveyed said they regularly drank wine.

But the survey found that consumer habits were changing and that the Swiss were drinking less wine than they did five years ago.

The poll also revealed that an increasing number of middle-aged people were drinking bottles of wine on social occasions with friends or at the weekend.

According to the survey, the older generation – particularly people in southern Switzerland – are the most likely to uncork a bottle of Swiss wine.

But four out of five people interviewed said they thought that Swiss wines in restaurants and bars were overpriced.

Quality versus quantity

“The price-performance ratio of Swiss wine is considered to have improved. We can’t compete in the low-price sector, but things look much brighter for the middle of the range,” Bussmann told swissinfo.

He said it was important to convince Swiss wine producers of the need to focus on quality rather than quantity.

“Only two per cent of Swiss wine production is destined for the export market. But we have shown that we can hold our own in the saturated world market.”

Roland Vergères, of leading Swiss wine producer Provins Valais, welcomed the survey’s findings.

“Improved marketing and better quality are the two main reasons [why Swiss wine has become more popular at home]. But it’s taken a long time. Efforts to focus on quality began 15 years ago. Now it seems that things are finally beginning to pay off.”

Vergères said he was pleased to note that 82 per cent of those polled in the survey knew that Switzerland was a wine-producing country – up from 54 per cent five years ago.

He told swissinfo that the challenge now was to focus on attracting more young consumers.

“Young people often don’t have very much money, but they like Swiss wine. As they grow older their purchasing power increases and they will perhaps not think twice before dipping into their wallets to buy Swiss vintages.”

Joint marketing

Last year Swiss wine producers joined forces in a bid to step up marketing efforts for their products. They set up a separate company to promote Swiss wines on the domestic market and abroad.

They also convinced the federal authorities to contribute SFr5 million ($4 million) from the annual SFr65 million budget earmarked for agricultural products.

There are more than 22,000 winegrowers in Switzerland, mainly around Lake Geneva and the Valais, as well as in the southern Ticino region.

Wine production in Switzerland has been on the decline over the past few years.

Switzerland produces roughly four per cent of Europe’s wine, and just under one per cent of the world’s wine.

swissinfo

Key facts

Switzerland’s most important wine-growing regions in terms of volume are in western Switzerland and in the southern Ticino region.
Switzerland produces about 4% of Europe’s wine, and just under 1% of the world’s wine.
Swiss wine production dropped from 1,309,613 hectolitres in 1999 to 1,112,400 hectolitres in 2002.

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In brief

The image of homegrown wines appears to have improved among Swiss consumers over the past five years.

A survey by the wine industry's promoting agency found that 77% of respondents consider the quality of Swiss wines to be as good as imported vintages.

The Swiss wine industry says the improved reputation is the result of increased marketing efforts and an improvement in quality.

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