GENEVA, SWITZERLAND / AMONG THE VINES – Swiss wine producers and Swiss restaurants have a treat in store for diners over the next 10 days, as the first-ever Swiss Wine Week gets underway.
Diners can go to the web site and search for a restaurant using the map, where each dot represents a restaurant taking part; click on the name and you have the details of what’s on offer.
Note that some of the restaurant hours, put into a data base by the restaurants, can be confusing and it’s best to check directly with the restaurant.
Signal de Bougy in Vaud, for example, says that it is closed almost every day of the week because it is closed in the evening – but its menu for Swiss Wine Week, at noon, is affordable and inviting.
You can also look for your favourite winery and see where its wines are being served, so if you’re keen to try Robert Gilliard’s Pinot Noir you’ll find you have to go to Sarnen in Obwald, for example.
120 restaurants, 200 wineriesBeautiful food for Swiss Wine Week (here, from Berceau des Sens restaurant at EHL in Lausanne)
The week kicks off Thursday 28 November, with 120 restaurants and 200 wine producers signed up to take part, nationwide. The rule is simple: a registered restaurant has to offer three dishes paired with three Swiss wines – by the glass – and the wines must come from three different wine regions.
The idea is to explore food and wine pairings and to encourage diners as well as restaurant staff to discover Swiss wines with which they are unfamiliar.
The country’s six wine regions, in order of size of their production areas: Valais, Vaud, Geneva, Ticino, German-speaking Switzerland, Three Lakes region around Neuchatel.
Variety: types of restaurants, of wines, food & wine pairings, prices
The dishes and wines offered vary considerably, depending on the type of restaurant, with small bistros and corner cafés taking part as well as some of the world’s top restaurants (Switzerland has more Michelin stars per capita than any country in the world).
Prices for the three options vary accordingly, but each option comes with a price for each food & wine pairing. A few restaurants are offering menus with three dishes, but most appear to be offering à la carte options that may be starters or main courses or desserts.
Chefs and sommeliers choose the wineries they want, then select wines to go with dishes they decide to offer.
Elisabeth Pasquier, managing director of the Vinea Association, which is one of the organizers, says that this has worked out several ways, with one small group of wineries contacting the restaurants they work with regularly to encourage them to take part in the week and serve their wines. Other restaurants have decided to work with wineries they don’t know, phoning Vinea to ask for advice on selecting a cellar and a wine. Some are suggesting wines from neighbouring cantons while others are actively looking to serve wines from further away.
Boost the share of Swiss wines in restaurants
The underlying idea is to encourage the restaurants to serve more Swiss wine by helping customers learn about the variety and range that Switzerland’s 2,000 professional wine producers sell.
Thank the wine business for coming up with the brainchild, part of their efforts to encourage restaurants to serve more local wines. Reliable statistics aren’t available yet (a study is underway) to show what percentage of wine sold in Swiss restaurants is Swiss, but Gilles Besse, president of Swiss Wine Promotion, the national marketing board, estimates it is about 50 percent in wine-producing regions and less to far less in other areas.
Profit margins, foreign vs. Swiss winesGrapes grown in steep vineyards give wines that may not be cheap but that are good value for money versus comparable quality wines from France and Italy
The reason is simple: profit margins. Foreign wines sell for a markup that can range from three times the store price to ten times, and the difference is an important part of a restaurant’s revenue.
An inexpensive foreign wine is easier to sell than a Swiss wine, even though the Swiss wine markup is 1.5 to 3 times the shop price: CHF5 for a middle-road Spanish wine with an 7-fold markup is sold for CHF35 a CHF30 profit for the owner, while a good Swiss wine that sells for CHF18 at the store might be CHF36 in the restaurant, but to the restaurant owner it represents only CHF18 in profit.
Customers are usually not as familiar with the shop prices of foreign wines and at the same time they are less likely to accept double the price for a bottle they know they can buy at a nearby winery.
A cliché that is remarkably hard to dislodge, is that Swiss wines are more expensive than French or Italian, for example, when in fact they are often less expensive for comparable quality – but many consumers are not familiar enough with a range of Swiss wines to realize this.
Given the bigger markup, restaurant owners lean towards serving foreign wines – unless customers know and ask for Swiss wines and it is clear the restaurant will can sell a volume that gives it a decent profit.