2017 Grape harvest - Frost and heat reduce Swiss wine harvest

Extreme weather over the past year has led to the smallest wine harvest in nearly four decades, although these same conditions favoured a good-quality product.

The 79 million litres of red and white wine of the 2017 vintage – a decrease of 27% compared with 2016 – is the result of cold nights last April and of hot and dry days in August, according to the Federal Agriculture Officeexternal link.

The worst affected wine-growing region was the French-speaking part of the country, notably canton Valais.

However, experts say the quality of the 2017 wine harvest is expected to be “very satisfactory”, due to the high concentration of natural sugar in the grapes according to a statement published on Monday.

The office points out that four out of the past five annual crops has been inferior to the average consumption of wine in Switzerland.

Vineyards in Switzerland cover about 14,750 hectares in the French, German and Italian-speaking parts of the country.

Government loans for farmers in distress

Because of the significant damage to their crops, some farmers found themselves in financial difficulty in 2017. To alleviate the situation, the government granted them loans worth CHF9.5 million ($10.1 million). Some CHF2.7 million of this went directly to farmers in the canton Valais, according to Jürg Jordi, spokesperson for the Federal Office for Agriculture. 

These farm assistance funds also went to fruit farmers for example, and it's thus unknown how much money went to the wine growers specifically, he told the Swiss news agency, SDA. 

Overall, fewer farmers than expected experienced a financial emergency. In the case of wine growers, however, it is particularly difficult to calculate the financial losses in advance, explained Jordi. The true cost often reveals itself only after they were able to sell less wine due to the smaller harvest.