Wine tippling continues to trend downward

Swiss residents are drinking less wine — particularly vintages from Switzerland but also those from abroad, show new government figures that confirm a trend established for the past few years.

Wine tippling continues to trend downward
Swiss wine grape harvest fell by more than 10 percent due to adverse weather last year. Photo: Switzerland Tourism

Residents bought six million litres less wine overall in 2012 than in the previous year — a total of 267 million litres, a drop of 2.2 percent year on year, the federal office of agriculture said on Thursday.

But consumption of domestic wine took a more precipitous fall, down 3.5 percent to 97 million litres, the first time domestic intake has fallen below 100 million litres, the office said.

Imbibing of reds and whites from foreign sources dipped by 1.5 percent to 170 million litres.

Domestic varieties accounted for a little more than a third of the Swiss market at 36.3 percent (down 0.5 percent).

More than two-thirds of the wine bought in Switzerland last year (almost 70 percent) was red, of which only 27.6 percent was supplied from within the country (down 0.7 percent).

Domestic production accounted for 55.6 percent of the white wine consumed in the country, up 0.2 percent.

For the second year running, the area of land devoted to vineyards in Switzerland remained unchanged at 14,920 hectares, with grapes for red wine accounting for 58 percent of the space.

The high level of the franc against the euro made imports cheaper for Swiss consumers.

But the agriculture office noted that the country's grape harvest for wine dropped 10.4 percent in 2012 from the record levels in the previous year and was 6.7 percent lower than the average for the past five years because of adverse weather.

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What is Switzerland’s ‘one franc vineyards’ scheme – and is it legit?

When news broke of vineyards being offered in the southwest of Switzerland for one franc, many asked if it was too good to be true. Here's what you need to know about the scheme (and how much a vineyard will actually cost you).

What is Switzerland's 'one franc vineyards' scheme - and is it legit?

Earlier in Spring, news broke of a new scheme where Swiss vineyards were available for just one franc. 

As with similar stories offering one franc plots of land or houses, the news spread far and wide – which of course was the point – while some eventually became disappointed. 

READ MORE: Gambarogno: The latest Swiss village to sell houses for one franc

While it’s likely to cost you a good deal more than one franc, if owning a Swiss vineyard (or at least part of it) is on your bucket list, you now have an opportunity to do so. 

Why are Swiss vineyards going cheap?

With nearly 5,000 hectares of vineyards and 60 different grape varieties, Valais is Switzerland’s largest wine-growing region.

Unfortunately, 20 percent of the canton’s vines are abandoned and municipalities must uproot them because they can’t find people willing to cultivate them.

A case in point is the community of Savièse, nestled in a picturesque Alpine valley. About 120 plots — four to five hectares — of  its vineyards were abandoned by their owners and therefore not harvested last year, as the commune can’t find people to do the work.

This is a serious case of neglect because “when a vine is not pruned, there is a period of one year to uproot it. Otherwise, there is a risk of spreading disease”, according to Savièse’s mayor, Sylvain Dumoulin.

“There are some vines where we need to do this now, and I fear the number will increase in the future”, he added.

How much does a plot cost?

In order to protect its winemaking traditions in general and abandoned plots in particular, the municipality has launched a new vines-saving project which includes a “stock exchange” of sorts for the sale and purchase of abandoned parcels.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to drink wine like a Swiss

Dumoulin didn’t reveal the cost of a plot of vineyard, as it depends on its location, condition and other factors.

Unfortunately, while you may have seen articles reporting that parcels are being sold for “a symbolic one franc”, this is more than likely a marketing ploy to attract attention than a realistic price.

Savièse’s vineyards. Screenshot, Saviè

“The main long-term objective is to encourage the grouping of plots and thus the rationalisation of the exploitation of these parcels”, Dumoulin told The Local.

He added that currently the project is “exclusively accessible for people who already own vineyards. But from July it will be open to anyone with an interest in purchasing vineyard areas”.

From then on, “anyone can download the application to find plots of vines for sale and to make their owner a price proposal”. 

The app, called “Vignoble Savièse” can be purchased in Apple or Google stores.

One example of such a gimmick was the Ticino town of Gambarogno, located on the shores of Lake Maggiore, which offered houses for one franc.

‘Impossible’: Why Switzerland’s one franc homes are too good to be true

As The Local reported, “the news – along with pictures of the Ticino countryside and the lake itself – spread across the globe, with people inside and outside of Switzerland letting themselves dream”. 

However, the “rustic houses with the view of the lake” turned out to be nothing more than ruins, with no roofs, windows, electricity or running water, situated in remote locations — about an hour’s walk from the nearest village.