Following last month’s release of the 2018 official harvest figures, Wines of Great Britain (WineGB) has this month published its annual survey of the UK wine industry, see page 9.
Exports may only account for 8% of the industry’s total 2.6 million bottles sold, but having doubled in just one year (up 4% on 2017) proving that overseas markets are providing producers with exciting opportunities.
Interestingly, 43% of total exports find their way to the Scandinavian countries of Norway, Denmark, Sweden and also Finland. This hive of activity certainly corresponds to conversations I had in late February with Exton Park’s sales and marketing manager Kit Ellen, see my Editor’s Visit on page 20.
Monopolies on the sales of alcohol in the Nordic wine markets (Sweden, Finland, Norway and Iceland) make them rather unique and potentially difficult to infiltrate. Each country is slightly different, but with the off-trade centrally controlled by the government it is possible that there will be just one person responsible for buying wines under the English or Welsh category. Finding a good importer, who has established relationships with both the on- and off-trade in your desired market, is therefore vital.
Domestically, the market for English and Welsh wines is by no way saturated, but with reports that two million vines are predicted to be planted in 2019, we are not far off, especially in the traditional method English sparkling category. Anyone producing over 50,000 bottles per year would be wise to explore exporting; if only to ensure that we never reach this saturation conundrum.
Paperwork and administration may, or may not, change at the end of this month, but this should not put anyone off. Equally, for those who are wary of potential linguistic barriers, there are plenty of English speaking nations to approach first.
No matter where your wines are sold – the cellar door, the local wine merchants, a top London restaurant – it is always important to ensure the estate’s story is clearly presented on the bottle, social media and your website. This becomes even more crucial when sending wine around the world. Owners, winemakers, sales managers and brand ambassadors should all factor in at least two visits a year to each market to keep importers well trained and up-to-date with the estate’s latest developments.
We may not have a ‘name’ for our wines, but we do all have a story to tell and exporting is a wonderful way to spread this far and wide.