GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – Swiss Wine Promotion, the marketing arm of the Swiss wine industry, is the latest to comment on the figures released last week by the Federal Agriculture Office, showing that Swiss wines have gained more market share at home, to the detriment of foreign wines.
The SWP office in a statement points to its work with a number of groups to increase the visibility of Swiss wines as well as underline their quality, noting that with a 10 percent increase in consumption of Swiss wines in one year it appears the word is getting out. Some of that increase is due to government efforts to provide support to wine producers for two years to redress market imbalances, but even taking that away the increase in Swiss wines consumed in 2013 was 7 percent.
The SWP says its work to date has focused on
- the final consumer, through events, tasting sessions, public relations efforts
- what the French call Horeca, the hospitality industry: Gault&Millau selection of best wineries, Best of Swiss Gastro, Swiss Wine Week)
- B2B: banks, watchmakers, key representative Swiss firms
- major retailers and specialist retailers: Coop, Denner, Manor, Aldi
- export: fairs and public relations
- tourism: wine tourism, which is under development.
The organization notes that a significant increase in awareness of the quality of Swiss wines should eventually lead to price increases that will give wineries a better profit margin: wine prices have been under pressure for some time.
Why did canton Vaud drink more wine in 2013?
Paul Vetter, journalist with Canal 9 television in canton Valais, commented on the new FOA figures last week and he raised the question why canton Vaud saw a real rise in consumption while Valais showed slightly lower consumption, based on his review of the FAO figures. He questioned the validity of the figures overall, finding many of them “odd”.
The tables released each year are complex and show not just consumption, but stocks at the start and end of the year, at wineries but also in the commercial wholesale and retail business. The figures focus mainly on AOC wines, the agriculture office says, because these make up about 95 percent of Swiss wine but also it is difficult to ensure that table wines, for example, contain only Swiss wine.
Combing through the figures it appears that stocks in Vaud rose sharply in 2012 – only to fall sharply in 2013. The shift in stocks is nowhere near as marked in Valais, and less marked in Geneva than in Vaud. Since the figures don’t provide pricing information it seems logical to assume that wine stocks fell in Vaud not just because the harvest was proportionally smaller than in Valais (the harvest was smaller in both areas), but because prices fell more significantly. Vaud drank more Swiss white and red wine last year and stocks of both fell sharply. Valais drank more white wine than the previous year, but less red; stocks of both fell more moderately.
In addition to noting that consumers are drinking more because wine quality is better and marketing is being stepped up to point this out, the issue of how the market is affected by price changes needs to be addressed. The agriculture office doesn’t do this: a Swiss wine observatory, similar to the observatories in other fields such as health care, should be looking at this to understand the overall picture.
Swiss Wine Promotion is reportedly working to establish an observatory.
Chablis in France holding its own with Swiss consumers
Chablis wines in Burgundy have been watching the changes in Swiss wine consumer habits, it appears, and if their new marketing campaign in Switzerland, which kicks off this week, is any indication, the SWP has its work cut out for it. Chablis whites were once very popular in Switzerland, but they fell out of fashion. By 2010 they started to make a comeback and by 2012 exports to Switzerland were nearly double what they were in 2003. Chablis exports to Switzerland dipped in 2013, but producers believe it was a temporary dip – and their new campaign includes educating sommeliers, a group that Swiss producers are also targeting.
The coming months promise an interesting battle to woo those of us who like to drink wine in Switzerland.