If you are Swiss, the language you speak at home has a profound effect on your wine drinking
The latest edition of our Switzerland Landscapes 2018 tells a story of a valuable, relatively small, and diverse wine market. However the overall pattern masks some fascinating regional variations within Switzerland. One of most intriguing stories from the report is the difference of consumption patterns between those who live in the French-speaking and German-speaking regions of Switzerland (Italian- and Romansh-speaking regions were not analysed due to their relatively small population sizes).
What stands out most about these two groups is that the majority of the time their behaviour is profoundly different from one another. For example, those in the French-speaking regions of Switzerland – generally the western end, around Geneva and Lausanne – tend consume wine two or more times a week. On the other hand, those living in the German-speaking regions – central and eastern regions around Basel, Zurich, and Chur – tend to drink wine a lot less frequently – typically 2 or 3 times a month. Even at a more detailed level, like which type of beverage each group consumes, the French-speaking Swiss drinkers consume differently to German-speaking Swiss. The groups showed divergent overall preferences in nearly each measure we surveyed.
Some of the main differences identified between the two groups:
- A greater proportion of French-speaking drinkers are higher-involved, more adventurous wine drinkers, whilst more German-speaking drinkers are less experimental and more health conscious with wine
- Perhaps not surprisingly, higher proportions of French-speaking consumers purchase wine from France, while German-speakers are much more likely to buy German and Austrian wine
- A higher proportion of German-speaking wine drinkers say bottle / label design is important when purchasing, while French-consumers report that they look for country and region of origin as well as expert validation when choosing wine to purchase.
There are also some aspects where behaviour is independent of language. Unlike many other wine markets, food and wine pairing are prominent drivers when purchasing wine for all Swiss regular wine consumers. Some 82% of Swiss regular wine drinkers claiming ‘matching or complimenting food’ is the most important factor to them when purchasing wine, and trade experts we interviewed report that wine is heavily connected with food in Switzerland – whichever canton you happen to find yourself in. According to one wine educator, ‘Wine is part of the family experience, part of the meal, part of what consumers want when they gather with friends’.
However, those in the Swiss gastronomy industry also report growing frustration at the impact of new, more draconian, drink-drive legislation. New regulations passed in 2016 cracked down on the legal blood-alcohol limit, and some believe this has led to changes in purchasing behaviours in the on-trade, particularly volume of purchase. More positively for on-trade operators, our data is showing that a higher proportion of wine drinkers enjoy wine whilst out at a bar or pub since we measured the same behaviour back in 2013.
Now that Switzerland is classified as a mature market (according to the Wine Intelligence Global Compass 2018 report), the volume of wine consumed in Switzerland is expected be flat or slightly declining over the next few years. However, with Swiss consumers continuing to have a strong and positive interest in wine, the trade is confident that value will remain high.
Author: Haley Moser