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Wine trade newcomers say producers too focused on quality

Published:  14 April, 2014

Future wine industry professionals say pushing wine's quality message is not enough to engage with new consumers.

Around 50 students from the Masters programme at the School of Wine & Spirits in Burgundy attended ProWein in Dusseldorf for the first time last month, and while many were impressed with the scale of the show, some felt wine firms were not making full use of the opportunity.

Brazil's Manuela Oltramari, who has a wine background, called on producers to "start telling a different story" other than wine quality. "The market is full of competitors and all of them are making good the excuse that your wine is top quality does not work anymore."

Maria Chebotova from Russia, who previously worked in international relations, agreed. "There are so many good wines in the world nowadays that quality is not a competitive advantage anymore, and yet quality is the only thing producers talked about at ProWein."

For South Africa's Wietske Rubow, producers need to ensure their brand's representative is up to scratch and can "make the brand memorable" as "far too many wineries appear to rely on wine quality alone".

On a more positive note, Italy's Stefano Redo was impressed by the "willingness of some [exhibitors] to demystify wine and approach the consumer with an easier and friendlier outlook".

Rubow thought New World wine producers did particularly well. "There was a coherent presentation per country or sometimes region and the representatives per winery were overall more inviting and eager to share than what I experienced in some old world regions. This united front per country is definitely an advantage to new world producers. Being from South Africa, I left Prowein feeling very positive."

China's Qian Wang, who comes from a property background, felt that fellow Chinese exhibitors had failed to take advantage of the show "simply because they didn't know how to engage - which was a such a waste of this big opportunity". But Japanese producers fared better, "if I keep my eyes on Asia, my favourite region was Japan, because they knew how to engage with visitors and introduce their products," Wang said.

Redo felt that Portugal had been well-organised and showcased a wide variety of wines, while he was least impressed by Italy, because of the "disconnect between booths". "The impression was that everyone was thinking just for themselves - creating a sense of fragmentation and confusion."

Russia's Chebotova felt that Austria put in a poor performance, as it was "impossible to find differences between stands - poor positioning and simply boring".

Oltramari was left wanting to know more about lesser-known regions Israel, Moldova, Georgia, Lebanon - "all unusual wine producers, and all with a positive outlook".

The UK's Nick Groszek, who comes from a music background, said producers needed to interact more with visitors, as "too many people were sitting on stools behind their stands using wine bottles as a barrier".