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Looking ahead: Nicky Forrest from Wines of Germany

Published:  16 August, 2019

As the first half of 2019 draws to a close, Harpers asked key trade figures to highlight the current challenges, ongoing trends and opportunities

We continue our series with insights from Nicky Forrest from Wines of Germany

What, currently, are the biggest challenges for the trade?

Climate change continues to be a challenge for German wine producers as white wine styles evolve and become fuller. But every cloud has a silver lining and so climate change has also allowed the development of red wines to an extraordinary level. Where once top Pinot Noir wines could only be made in spectacular years, now they can be made every year.

There is too of course, Brexit and Germany maintaining shelf space in supermarkets. However, Germany has become and will continue to become a niche/specialist player in the wine world with a market share in the UK reflective of its size as a wine growing nation.

For you, what are the most significant emerging trends in the drinks world?

Making the drinks industry more sustainable will be a trend that continues; whether that is an increase in organic and vegan wine production, low intervention wine making, new forms of packaging or waste and water management. I think we’ll also continue to see consumers maintaining a healthier relationship with alcohol and drinking less but better.

What were the highs and lows for Wines of Germany in the first six months of 2019?

The first half of 2019 has been strong with Germany coming into its own with its new wave of German producers (Generation Riesling*) who are smashing boundaries exploring red wines, sparkling wines and low intervention cuvées – Germany is a crucible of experimentation at the moment. Wines of Germany continues to strive to find new and interesting ways of placing Germany’s contemporary wine makers in front of the ever-thirsty UK wine buyers and this year’s marketing calendar continues to wow trade and consumers. From trade trips to Berlin, our annual tasting The Big G, exclusive sommelier-led sessions hosted by award-winning sommelier Jan Konetzki to collaborations with Brighton’s hit-list restaurant Silo and sponsoring Latitude festival – not forgetting the regional outreach to both trade and consumers in Brighton, Manchester and Edinburgh!

How has the first half of 2019 been when compared to the same period in 2018?

Compared to 2018, we’ve upped our game on regional outreach, we’re focusing on newer trends looking at low intervention wines and Sekt too and we’re about to roll out our Pinot Paradise campaigns – it’s all very exciting.

What will the focus be on with regard to your portfolio (and any updates) and why?

Riesling still dominates in the UK as far as German varietals are concerned. We have recently witnessed a revival in Pinot varieties from Germany as they demonstrate great value. If Riesling is the singular drum beat, then the Pinot varieties are part of the percussion. Germany is the third-biggest grower of Pinot Noir in the world, making twice as much as New Zealand. It is also the biggest producer of Pinot Blanc in the world and the third biggest Pinot Gris producer. A little-known fact is that the Pinot varieties today stand for 28% of the entire vineyard surface in Germany, and soon the share will be more than 30%, whereas Riesling stands for only 23%; hence the term ‘Pinot Paradise’.

Over the past two years more and more styles of German wines are available on the high street, from a Pinot Blanc in the Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference range and Waitrose’s Vom Loess Pinot Blanc and Oddbins’ Anette Closheim Savvy Sauvignon Blanc to a Riesling Sekt at Laithwaite’s. Pinot Noir from Germany is now fairly ubiquitous and available in supermarkets, independents and restaurants all over the UK.

The Wines of Germany strategy is to continue to focus on native grape varieties which give a true taste of German wine diversity, celebrating assets that we can truly own: Riesling, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, but also Sekt, and of course Germany’s pure, crisp and fruity wine style. This is how we can make an impact and it gives us a huge opportunity to bring new consumers into the category and to provide existing ones with new wine styles to try and talk about. This route means that there will consistently be new messages for the trade and consumer. It’s all about diversity.

Will you be preparing in any way for a second potential ‘no deal’ or some deal Brexit day on 31 October and, if so, how?

I think it’s fair to say that everyone is concerned about a no deal Brexit and the impact it will have. The issues that are concerning for producers are partly logistical and around movement of stock and labelling for example. But of more concern are the strategic issues around the increased costs of doing business with the UK. As a generic marketing body making sure that the UK market remains attractive for producers and that the UK remains a high priority market for them.

What, for you, would make for a perfect summer?

Maintaining a healthy Pinot Blanc crop on my own 300 vine strong vineyard in Kent. This year will be my second vintage and I’m working with Ben Walgate at Tillingham to create the UKs smallest bottling of English Sparkling wine!