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Spotlight on 2020: Zsuzsa Toronyi, Wines of Hungary UK

Published:  05 December, 2019

As we prepare for the new decade, Harpers will be taking the month of December to look back over 2019 and ahead to what the coming year will bring – hopefully full of revived optimism for both politics and the trade.

Here, we continue our winter series of reflections, predictions and views with Zsuzsa Toronyi, director, Wines of Hungary UK.

1. What were the highs and lows for you and your business in 2019?

This year was a very active and successful one for Wines of Hungary UK. We organised several events, including the Furmnint February Tasting, which brought us several awards such as the Best Campaign of the Year. We also hosted the Blue of the Danube - Kekfrankos Tasting, which was the first Central Eastern Eurpoean tasting to be held in the UK.

We have also made new connections with those who haven't had the chance to experience Hungarian wines but are eager to do so, however, we have also been restricted in building momentum and distribution with Brexit hanging above our heads. 

2. What were the most significant issues and trends that occurred in 2019?

For me there is only one 'most significant' issue and that is Brexit. Three years on and we still do not know what will happen. Without the threat of Brexit, I strongly believe this would have been the golden age for the unknown regions of European wines. There is a huge interest towards the undiscovered European regions, and also further afield to places like Morocco and Lebanon - countries and regions that have been producing wines for thousands of years but have found it very difficult to push into the UK market.

4. What Brexit outcome would you prefer to see?

I would like to see no Brexit. I would love to continue to see more European wines in the market, and I strongly believe that the UK consumers, as European, global consumers, deserve the right to discover the hidden treasures of Europe and other countries without limitations. I am also a strong supporter of English wines, which should also be able to find their way more easily into the European markets.

5. What trends do you predict for 2020?

We are experiencing more and more interest towards the ‘New Old World’ - Central and Eastern European wines. Consumers are open to new experiences. The regions are offering high quality, reasonably priced wines, they tell a story at a dinner party and are great alternatives for millennials and generation X.

6. What are likely to be the biggest opportunities for the trade in 2020?

Diversification. Consumers are ready and willing to try and taste unknown wines. The winners are going to be the ones offering the best quality, best experiences and the best prices. Organic and vegan wines are a big thing and continue to be important in line with increasing environmental consciousness of consumers. Fortunately many of the wineries of the unknown territories are producing their wines organically.

7. What are the biggest challenges facing the trade in 2020?

The biggest challenge is still Brexit - the uncertainty blocks the wine trade in answering the clear consumer trends. Markets which would like to enter the UK and distributors who can’t offer the best values will continue to struggle with delivering their promise to the consumers. You could find the best winery offering natural wines in Hungary or Romania or Moldova, but with the given business environment it is harder to get these wines to the UK consumers.

8. Who are the people, companies or retailers to watch in 2020?

There are lots of young import companies with the desire to offer something new, like Jascots. There are buyers with the curiosity to discover the unique treasures of the undiscovered regions, like Freddy Bulmer from The Wine Society who was open and brave enough to offer several outstanding wines from the CEE region. Also, established wine experts are willing to widen their knowledge and to transfer it to consumers.

9. What, for you, would make for a perfect Christmas?

The perfect Christmas for me is spending time with my family. Enjoying my mother’s food and drinking good wines. A sweet wine from Tokaj, Aszu or Szamorodni is a must on our Christmas table. 

10. New Year's resolution?

We are going to continue to work hard on introducing more Hungarian and Eastern European wines to the UK market and consumer.