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Geneva storage firm touts ‘largest wine cellar’

Malcolm Curtis · 21 May 2014, 12:36

Published: 21 May 2014 12:36 GMT+02:00

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Geneva Free Ports & Warehouses Ltd. (Les Ports Francs et Entrepôts de Genève) underlined this statistic as it celebrated its 125th anniversary this week.

The company, controlled by the canton of Geneva, offers storage free of duty for wine and a range of commodities, from works or art to pharmaceuticals.

The Guinness book gives the honour of the world’s largest wine cellar to a small village in Moldavia, where 1.5 million bottles of the fermented grape juice are stored.

But officials from Les Port Francs say it has twice that number in its climatised premises, with most of the wine coming from France, from Bordeaux to the Rhône Valley.

“At Ports Francs it’s about great vintages more and more,” Alain Decrausaz, the company’s managing director, said during the company’s anniversary celebration on Tuesday, the Tribune de Genève reported.

The wine is stored in bottles ranging up to 15 litres in size.

The company used to store many millions more in the past but the majority of this was industrial table wine.

“Today there are without doubt fewer litres, but they are worth a lot more.”

Why is all this wine being stored in Switzerland?

The company touts various reasons.

Its warehouses, which cover an area large enough to cover 22 football fields (140,000 square metres), are located in a stable, neutral country in the centre of Europe.

Temperature and humidity are strictly controlled and can be adapted to meet the specific needs of clients, the company says.

Fire protection technology reduces the risk of damage if a blaze breaks out.

Provided the product is not destined for Switzerland, it is also not liable for duties.

The company’s vast storage facilities, including strong rooms, containers and offices, are located in the La Praille-Acacias area of Geneva and near the Geneva airport.

The nature of its business has changed over the years.

Story continues below…

In the 1980s it stored mostly Japanese cars and carpets.

Now, the company said that works of art occupy 40 percent of its storage space.

A new 10,400-square-metre building dedicated to art was to officially open on Wednesday with 99 percent of its space already rented.

Reports of the company housing stashes of money and gold are not true, since neither of these is subject to duties, Decrausaz, told the Tribune de Genève.

But the company is proving to be a pot of gold for the canton, contributing 10 to 12 million francs annually to the government’s budget.

Malcolm Curtis (news@thelocal.ch)

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