Sierre, Switzerland (GenevaLunch) – Vinea, a Valais-based association that was created 15 years ago to showcase the wines of Switzerland’s largest wine-producing canton, has grown into a major player in the wine world, far beyond its original Valais borders. Tuesday evening the group gave itself a new structure to better place it to educate the world about Swiss wines.
The wine business accounts for 15 percent of agricultural products, about half that of Swiss dairy products, including cheese. Agriculture is 1 percent of Swiss GDP (gross domestic product) overall, well behind industry and the service sector, which includes banking. But wine remains an important part of Swiss society, especially in French-speaking areas where vineyards often dominate the landscape.
New statutes were approved for Vinea to reflect the growing number of activities and work it does outside canton Valais. One of the country’s best-known wine experts, François Murisier, was named president of the revised association, with Elisabeth Pasquier, the former managing director, named to the new post of director.
Murisier is the former head of wine grape growing and oenology at the Swiss federal centre, Agroscope Changins-Waedenswil. He is an expert with the OIV (International Organization of Vin and Wine) and president of the scientific committee of Cervim, a mountain wines organization.
“We’ll go on doing many of the same things,” Pasquier told GenevaLunch, “working closely with SwissWine and Ofag [government agriculture office], but now we have the structure to allow us to do this properly.” The group’s new goal, she says, is to “bring together several areas of expertise to improve the understanding and knowledge of the work of Swiss wine grapegrowers and producers”
Ed. note: SwissWine is a promotional partnership of two national groups, Swiss Wine Promotion and the Swiss Wine Exporters Assocation. Vinea works with them to present Swiss wines at major international food and beverage or purely wine events outside Switzerland, such as Vinalies, one of the year’s major wine events, 28 February in Paris.
Vinea is best known in Switzerland for the wine festival of the same name that it hosts every September, bringing 10,000 visitors to Sierre to sample the wines of more than 100 Swiss producers. What started as a cantonal event was extended in 2009 to include wines from throughout the country. But Vinea is also known outside Switzerland for the high-level international wine competitions it holds. It is one of 13 international members of Vinofed, which brings together the only wine competitions which have the patronage of both the OIV and the Union Internationale des Oenologues (UIOE). Vinea organizes competitions to select the world’s top Pinot Noirs and Merlots. More than 6,000 wines were sampled and judged by juries in 2009, says the group.
Its impact has grown rapidly in Switzerland, too. The Grand Prix du Vin Suisse competition, which had a record 2,100 wines entered in 2009, has played a role in getting the often fiercely independent Swiss cantons to work more closely together to promote their wines.
And Vinea has done much to educate the general public about Swiss wines through its reference work, the Swiss Wine Guide, which it produces every two years in English, French and German.