Better known for delicious chocolate, snow-capped mountains, exquisite watches and wealth management, Switzerland is not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about wine. “Swiss wines are the best kept secret of Switzerland”, Swiss people half-jokingly – half-seriously claim. But Swiss wines are indeed worth discovering.
Switzerland’s products and services are recognized as expensive but reliable and of utmost quality. “We want Swiss wines to be viewed as part of our heritage and in the same way as watches, banking and chocolate”, Jean-Marc Amez-Droz, Director of the Swiss Wine Promotion, claims. “Swiss wines have a niche market but there are excellent perspectives for them. Wine connoisseurs in the world are looking for quality products that a few people know of. And Swiss wines do meet that demand”, he concludes.
Swiss people drink almost all of what is being produced by themselves (more than 99%). Almost all production is sold in Switzerland and less than 1.5% is exported. But Switzerland’s small scale and sustainable wine industry is ripe for growth. According to the Swiss General Directorate of Customs, in 2017 the export of Swiss wines reached 571 000 litres (379 500 of white and 191 700 litres of red wine) – an increase of 8.5% compared to 2016. The main countries for export are Germany (a top global importer both in value and volume) and France (4th global importer by volume). In 2017, the Swiss exports rate remarkably grew in terms of value – CHF 10.58 per litre (CHF 11.25 per red wine and CHF 9.35 for white wine) – with the average international export price per wine bottle being EUR 3.56. The first quarter of 2018 is also promising – the exports in volume stabilized and the average price increased sharply to reach CHF 21.99 per litre. The Swiss Federal Office for Agriculture reveals a 93.6% growth in value for the Swiss exports (June 2017 – June 2018).
Swiss wines are produced in small quantities. The labour costs are high and so are the wine prices. If we take into account the difficult topography in Switzerland, where most of the vineyards have to be treated by hand, not by machinery, the various obstacles and the efforts of the producers to preserve the environment – over 80% of the Swiss wine production is sustainable – such prices might be justified. The latest trend of increasing the exports in terms of value is promising. It responds to the country’s strategy for positioning Swiss wines as upscale. “In a world of niche markets, the limited size of the Swiss vineyards is not a handicap but an advantage. Swiss wines are authentic, terroir-driven and exquisite”, Jean-Marc Amez-Droz of Swiss Wine Promotion comments.
Most of the imported wine comes from Italy, France and Spain – those are in fact the top 3 countries exporting wine globally. The Italian wine comes mainly from Tuscany, Veneto, Sicily and Puglia. According to the Swiss Federal Office for Agriculture, in 2017, a hike in imported wine is observed. Imports of white wines grew by 632,100 liters (+ 1.6%) to about 40 million liters. An increase is also observed in imports of red wines (+527 500 liters, + 0.4%), which totaled 123 million liters. As in the past, Italy is at the head of the countries where the imported wines come from, with 77.2 million liters (+ 4.8% compared to 2016), followed by France, with 39.4 million liters (+ 2.0%), and Spain, with 30.7 million liters (-2.9%). Imports of Portuguese wines remained stable (some 10.6 million liters). The largest decline was in imports of United States wines (3.9 million liters in total, a drop of 1.2 million liters, -23.8%).
Swiss people consume more wine than people in Austria, Greece, Chile and Bulgaria and nearly as much as those in Belgium, according to the International Vine and Wine organization (OIV) Switzerland is a country very much interested in wine. A British study has found out that the Swiss people spend on wine more than anyone else in the world – nearly EUR 600 per person per year. In comparison, wine drinkers in Portugal and Spain spend just EUR 127 per person per year. Much of the wine drunk in Switzerland is mainly bought in retail stores or on-trade, though most of the wineries are open to the public and sell directly to the end-customers.
Last but not least
Maybe the Swiss keep more than 99% of the wine they produce for themselves because it is really good. Or maybe because they have come to realize that the “secret attraction” of Swiss wine is – as the “Forbes” magazine has once put it – “well…Switzerland”. The Swiss will do their best to make your wine related visit there worthy. Mark our words.