Saturday, November 15, 2014

Ticino (Switzerland) wine region: Industry structure

I had had a wonderful evening at the DWCC14 closing dinner at the Montreux Casino, eating, drinking, and dancing to satiation before gingerly making my way back to the hotel. For there was work to be done on the morn. A team of bloggers would be making their way to Ticino to explore the region and its wines and I did not want to be the "guy who missed the boat." It was a train, actually, and it was slated to depart from Montreux Station at 8:36 am, headed to Milan Central where we would meet up with a Ticinowine representative and then take a second train to Lugano. Things went swimmingly and we met Mattias at Milan as planned, had a coffee, boarded our new train, and arrived in Lugano where we were greeted by Francesco Tettamanti, Director of Ticinowine. Over the course of the next two-and-one-half days we met a number of industry players and tasted their wines. I will relay my observations in a number of posts, beginning with this one providing my understanding of the structure of the industry.


The structure of the Ticino wine industry is new for me in that it runs the gamut from individual growers to vertically integrated companies producing grappa and balsamic vinegar in addition to their core product. At one end of the market is a grower who may have a plot with a few vines (but more normally between 3 ha and 6 ha) whose output is sold either to the Coop or to a large producer. In that their end product is grapes, these growers are focused on yield while purchasers are much more focused on quality. This conflict is moderated by paying the grower approximately CHF4.50/kilo once a minimum sugar level has been attained. Allowed yield in the region is 70 hl/ha, high by the standards of other European quality regions. We did not actually meet any of the growers in this class during the course of our visit.


The next step "up" on the ladder is the small grower/producer. This entity grows the grapes and produces wine on his/her own account. The grapes for the wine may be co-located with the cellar or may be grown on non-contiguous plot(s) and transported in to the estate for fermentation and aging. The latter point is illustrated by  Cantina Kopp Von der Crone Visisni which sources fruit from a number of different vineyards while the cellar itself is co-located with the vineyard in Barbengo. We met with two representatives of this class: Cantina Kopp Von der Crone Visini and Azienda Mondò.

Modification of map sourced from

We next encounter the negociant grower/producers. This entity grows grapes for its own account but also purchases grapes from multiple growers from different geographic areas in order to highlight the terroir of certain areas or to create regional blends. The purchased grapes may or may not be bought under long-term contract and the producer may or may not be involved in vineyard planting, management, and harvesting decisions. In some cases the land is leased and the grower/producer is fully responsible for its management and production. Players in this class may be engaged in the production of grape-originated products such as grappa and balsamic vinegar. Residents of this class with whom we met include Tamborini Carlo SA, Angelo Delea SA, and Agriloro.

There are a total of 3000 growers operating in Ticino.

We also met with Brivio Vini SA and Gialdi Vini SA, operating as negociants under the same roof and management in Mendrisio. They buy fruit from 400 farmers operating on 100 ha of land in the region.

There are a total of 200 producers in Ticino with 15 of the largest turning out 80% of the product.

Distribution of the finished product is a responsibility that has been taken on by many of the large producers. An example of this evolution is Tamborini which began as an importer and distributor of extra-regional wines. These wines were distributed via retail outlets as well as being sold to restaurants and hotels in the region. Once Tamborini began producing its own wine, it utilized this distribution network to get its products into the hands of customers and utilized the products from other Ticicno producers to maximize the utility of this asset. Most of the large producers that we encountered had their own distribution fleet and a retail outlet.

My next post on the topic will turn to the wines of the region.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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