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Swiss sip less and less wine

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The consumption of wine in Switzerland fell again last year, according to figures published on Thursday by the Federal Agriculture Office.

This content was published on April 5, 2007 - 17:47

The Swiss drank just over 270 million litres of wine – 2.5 per cent less than in 2006. The total amount consumed was down for both Swiss wine (-4 per cent) and foreign wine (-1.6 per cent).

Figures in the report Wine Year 2006 show that consumers drank just over 50.9 million litres of Swiss white wine and 51.2 million litres of Swiss red.

"One of the main reasons for the decline is the influence of the 0.5 milligrams per millilitre blood alcohol limit for drivers," commented Christophe Venetz, head of marketing at the Interprofession umbrella organisation of vintners in canton Valais.

"People consume wine less far away from home. Restaurateurs have had the intelligence to counter this by offering wine by the glass," he told swissinfo.

Higher quality

Venetz noted that another trend was for people to drink wines that were of higher quality.

"It's also a global phenomenon. It's not only in Switzerland that wine consumption is declining," he added.

However, in Valais - Switzerland's largest wine-producing area – sales figures increased slightly in 2005.

"For a vintner, it is more advantageous to have very high quality grapes with a smaller harvest. The consumer is prepared to pay a little more for a very high quality wine," Venetz said.

The report notes that measures being taken to restructure the wine industry in Switzerland are continuing to have an effect.

Vineyards with the Pinot noir grapes continue to be the most popular in Switzerland, covering an area of 4,490 hectares, while those with Chasselas and Müller-Thurgau grapes are on the decline.

New red grapes being introduced are Gamaret, Merlot and Garanoir.

Price

Venetz believes that the larger decline in the consumption of Swiss wines last year can be explained by the trend in restaurants to offer more foreign wines. It's a question of price.

"There are on the market today wines from other countries that are of a very good quality. They have lower production costs with which we cannot compete."

As for the future of the Swiss wine industry, he is cautiously optimistic.

"We have seen that at the top end of the market Swiss wines remain quite affordable. In Valais, it is rare that a wine costs more than SFr25 ($20.6) direct from the vintner. It's difficult to find wines at the same price for wines from Burgundy or Italy.

"What is really lacking is a critical mass to try to export. If someone produces 2,000 bottles a year, how can you expect him to be in a position to export?"

swissinfo

Key facts

Wine consumption in Switzerland has been steadily falling.
In 2006, the Swiss consumed 270.2 million litres of wine.
The amount in 2005 was 272.9 million litres.
In 2004, it was 282.4 million litres.

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The main Swiss wine regions

Valais is the main wine-producing region of Switzerland with vines covering 5,136 hectares.

Vaud is in second place with grapes over 3,851 hectares, followed by Geneva with 1,288 hectares.

Wine is also produced to a lesser extent in Ticino (1,036 hectares), around Zurich (619), Neuchâtel (596) and Schaffhausen (472).

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Imported wines

Among the wines produced abroad, the Swiss prefer those from Italy and France. Their sales topped 60 million and 50 million litres respectively last year.

Spanish wines are in third place with 30 million litres sold.

In fourth place come the wines from the United States (5 million litres), followed by Portugal, Australia, Germany, Chile and South Africa.

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