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‘Major irregularities’ found in 36 wine producers

A small fraction of Swiss wine producers have been caught dabbling in illegal blending Keystone

Faults were found among almost half of the 1,815 Swiss wine producers inspected in 2014, with 854 showing minor irregularities and 36 major shortcomings. 

“In particular the companies committing major errors blended wines illegally,” said Philippe Hunziker, head of the Swiss Wine Trade Inspection on Thursday. 

Improper labelling was also noted in the report of the wine inspectors and cantonal chemists. 

“All the irregularities were the result of human error or administrative negligence,” said Patrick Edder, a chemist in canton Geneva, adding that small as well as large cellars were involved. 

Urs Schwaller, president of the inspectors’ association and a politician for the Christian Democrats, stressed that Swiss wine was of top quality, “but it’s up to us to ensure that what’s on the label is also what’s in the bottle”. 

Serious wrongdoings concerned only 2% of companies checked. In total, almost 40% of all companies active in the wine sector were inspected. 

Zero tolerance 

Cantons Vaud and Valais in southwestern Switzerland, which produce more than half of Swiss wine, were subject to nine and four denunciations respectively last year. While the figure for Valais stayed the same, Vaud saw five more than in 2013. 

In the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino, the number increased from two in 2013 to five in 2014. 

This increase could be explained by the poor harvest in 2013, which could have resulted in more blending, including blending which was not authorised in 2014. Most of those were 5-10% above what is legally permissible. 

“The Swiss Wine Trade Inspection does not have the power to punish such abuse despite practising zero tolerance,” Schwaller said, explaining that it was up to the cantonal chemists to inform the justice authorities of the worst cases. 

Eventual punishments are usually economic. Companies caught blending illegally can be fined but usually see their wines downgraded. Only the worst cases end up in court facing criminal proceedings. 

The minor irregularities committed by 854 firms were usually accounting errors. 

Last year 264 million litres of wine were consumed in Switzerland, 7.5 million litres less than in 2013. Swiss wines suffered more than foreign ones – a result blamed on poor recent harvests.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR