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Swiss tastes in alcohol go upmarket

White wine consumption has dropped over the years

(Keystone)

A study on alcohol consumption shows that the Swiss are going upmarket in their tastes in alcohol, with wine now accounting for more than half - 52 per cent -- of today's overall alcohol consumption, replacing the throat-scorching tipples of a century ago.

These are some of the findings in a document produced by the Swiss Alcohol Board, which has charted alcohol consumption in Switzerland between 1880 and 2000.

A century ago, many of the working class in Switzerland used to drown their sorrows with spirits. But the Swiss today are far more moderate, preferring to become mildly inebriated on beer or wine.

The Swiss now drink 3.1 million hectolitres of wine per year, although that is still 40 per cent less in volume than in 1880. Interestingly, there has been a decrease in wine consumption in recent years, which the board attributes to slowing economic growth and awareness of the health hazards caused by white wine.

An average of 4.2 million hectolitres of beer were consumed per year in the late 1990s, compared with more than a million hectolitres per year a century before.

The drink that has come off worst of all is cider, which now accounts only for a tiny one per cent of overall consumption, compared with 18 per cent half a century ago.

The study shows that historically, the working classes turned to "schnapps" and other highly alcoholic spirits as means for 'collective anaesthesia' and even as a substitute for food, particularly at the start of the industrial age, in the 1870s.

The Church and bourgeois organisations then stepped in to put a stop to this trend, and laws were passed to prevent alcohol abuse.

Consumption was at its lowest during World War II, when only 99,000 litres were drunk per year.

swissinfo with agencies


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