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Oregon wants to double UK sales within three years

Published:  24 May, 2012

The head of the Oregon Wine Board hopes to double its UK sales within the next three years.

Tom Danowski, executive director, told Harpers that the UK currently accounts for 2-3% of its sales, making it the number two export market after Canada.

"The UK is going in the right direction, but we still have a lot of work to do," he said. He added that in the more premium side of the trade - it was "getting a glimmer of recognition" for being a "very high quality product" albeit a "little more expensive than people like".

Its average retail price in the UK market is around £15 to £30.

Danowski said one of its main aims in the UK was to spread awareness about its quality. "We've got a bit complacent about our wine quality," he added. He said that in the USA the number of its wines getting over 90 points had jumped from around 100 10 years ago to 300 now.

It will continue to focus on the on-trade and independent specialists, "we've got to elbow our way into expanding our penetration and availability," he said.

According to Danowski, who joined the board late last year after working for Starbucks and Washington winery Ste Michelle, the broad recognition of American wines as good value built shelf presence and impact for the category. He said Oregon's more premium wines stood in contrast to that perception, but he was more than happy for entry-level US wines to act as an "icebreaker" for Oregon.

Oregon has 450 wineries, and its top five varieties in 2011 were Pinot Noir, which at 12,560 planted acres dwarfs its next nearest grape Pinot Gris which has 2,590 acres. This is followed by Chardonnay, Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon. Each winery typically produces under 5,000 cases per year. "It's a lousy place to be a corporate entity, but a great place for individual proprietors," he said.