Monika Reule sees positive development in export
Wine from Rheinhessen is continually gaining a better reputation; on the other hand, export quantities were plunging – nationwide – for years. Can we now speak of a sustainable turnaround?
I’d be careful with that statement. However, in 2017 export sales of German wine increased by 6.8% in volume and 7.2% in value. Current figures for the period 1st April 2017 to 31st March 2018 show a positive development, too – a plus of 8.3% in volume and 6.6% in value. It is emerging that this upward trend is continuing. But the 2017 vintage had to bear massive losses in yield – in Rheinhessen and on the Moselle a minus of 23%. Both regions are strong in exporting. Therefore, we fear to not have sufficient quantities to grow further.
What turned out to be the growth drivers?
The most important export countries remain the USA, the Netherlands, Norway, Great Britain and China. Our exports to Great Britain are now recovering after a long downswing. In the Nordic countries of Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland combined we rank second place; in Norway, Germany is even market leader for white wine. Additionally, Eastern Europe is developing positively. In Poland, the average price per litre has improved from EUR 1.49 to EUR 2.19 since 2010. In the Czech Republic, the price has increased from EUR 1.55 to EUR 1.88. Volumes have also increased substantially.
The charming thing about the Scandinavian countries is, of course, that the population is used to spending a lot of money on alcoholic beverages…
In Norway we have a very good average price of EUR 3.99; across all exports we achieve EUR 2.87. In the USA, we generate EUR 4.27 for a litre, without taxes, and in China EUR 4.59. These are fantastic prices. In the domestic trade the average price is at EUR 3.20. In the export business you can generate a higher added value than in your own country. This is the reason why more and more operations are interested in exporting. Germany is a saturated market; abroad there are still growth markets, which means a great opportunity for us.
Who profits – the sellers of bulk wine, the wineries, the top wine estates, everyone?
Everyone who starts exporting wines of good quality to countries where added value is still possible – from small wine estates to big wineries. However, you do not just need to be willing to export; you also need the ability to do it. You need enough staff to travel to those countries, to establish and maintain contacts there.
Do the Rheinhessen people have this ability?
Yes, they do. And they are getting better at it all the time because of their absolute focus on quality and their many young, aspiring operations. But you also have to see that abroad German wines are first of all perceived through their grape varieties. People have understood that we stand for Riesling, and Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder) is now also a household name. Our strategy to create a profile with typical German varieties is now paying off.
With this in mind, how would you judge the strategy of getting away from „the German Riesling“ and defining oneself more through vineyard sites and other categories?
To attain distinctiveness through origin in the domestic market absolutely makes sense. The German consumer has to know what a particular region stands for. Distinguishing oneself from others also means to advocate certain grape varieties. A clear profile, which also communicates origin, helps abroad, too.
A little more than 100 years ago Liebfraumilch was all the rage internationally. Is anything as attractive in sight?
This establishment of a profile has to be achieved by our producers. Liebfraumilch was not a brand but a category, for which different varieties and regions were allowed. Brands are built up and maintained by companies. If a profile is created for Rheinhessen, then companies can, within this profile, build their own brand.
The USA and Great Britain are key markets. How do Brexit and the tariffs dispute with US President Trump affect your export expectations?
I do not have a crystal ball, but I am confident. England is, after Germany, the most important country to import wine. People there like drinking wine. The British government cannot afford to cease trade relations. Bilateral agreements will need to be found. We anxiously observe the situation in the USA, but we see great potential there for German wine, and we are not going to be put off.
Your forecast: Will this change of trend in export persist?
That will depend on the quantity. If in 2018 we yield normal quantities, I am very confident.
Note to the editor: Monika Reule has been heading, as from 1st April 2007, all joint marketing efforts for German wine, as the board of the DWF Deutscher Weinfonds (German Wine Fund) and the CEO of the DWI Deutsches Weininstitut (German Wine Institute), the DWA Deutsche Weinakademie (German Wine Academy) and the Weinwerbe GmbH (Wine Marketing). More
More information: German wine exports in the plus