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Bulk rides high as global trade in wine grows

Published:  25 November, 2022

The global trade in wine continues to grow year-on-year, with bulk comprising an ever more important slice of that market, with the value of wines shipped in bulk rising, as more premium bulk gains share.

These were some of the key takeaways from the sector-leading World Bulk Wine Exhibition (WBWE) in Amsterdam this week (21-22 November), where a healthy attendance of both exhibitors and buyers attested to the buoyancy of the bulk market.

During an introductory presentation, the OIV’s head of statistics, digitalisation and data management, Giorgio Delgrosso, mapped out the steady growth in international trade of wine since 2000.

In 2021 this hit an all-time high, up 4% by volume (to 112 million hectolitres) and 16% by value (to €34.4bn) compared with the pandemic hit 2020, and up 4% in volume and 8% in value compared with the ‘normal’ year of 2019.

With this trend set to continue to the end of 2022 and beyond, Delgrosso acknowledged a dip in global consumption during 2020, as the pandemic lockdowns hit, but highlighted a rise to an all-time high of 235mhl in 2021, with this “moderate trend set to continue in 2022”.

This, he added, is set against a backdrop of stable average production for the last four years, despite regional and local challenges in many territories, with production in the EU – driven by its big three of France, Spain and Italy – accounting for some 154mhl, or 60% of the world total.

“Almost half the wine in the world is imported wine… evidence that wine is becoming increasingly globalised,” said Delgrosso.

The OIV data revealed that global bulk volumes had actually dipped by 5% in 2021, but also that the value of those bulk shipments had still risen. Driving this shift to more premium bulk are countries such as the US, Germany and the UK, with the latter seeing imports decrease by 7%, but increase in 7% by value.

“This indicates that average prices of imported wines clearly increased last year… and all countries have positive imports in value, except China, where in 2021 imports declined by 1% in value, but 11% in volume” said Delgrosso.

Of the top three importing markets by in 2021, Germany stood at 8.1mhl, followed by the UK at 4.7mhl, and the US at 4.4mhl. Switch this around to value, and the UK is in first place, at €567m, Germany on €467m and the US on €337m.

With bulk on the rise, and its share also now being driven by a combination its greater economic and sustainable credentials over bottled wines in the face of both global inflation and climate crisis, the opportunities were certainly clear to those on the WBWE trading floor.

“There is no problem with value, prices are stable, except for Australia, and we are seeing some really decent buyers,” said Stuart Bowman-Hood, director of Frederick’s, which specialises in matching producers – and often quality bulk wines – to trade partners in the retail and hospitality world.

Bowman-Hood added that “all the major [UK] multiples and the discounters, are here, and business is looking really good”, with others at the event being similarly upbeat.

Another factor which is likely to underpin the ongoing growth in global trade in wine and shipments in bulk, according to James Bryson of Vinlog, who gave a presentation on logistics and shipping, is that the issues of congestion and delay that have beset the sector are “easing up”.

Subsequently, prices are also coming down, to around 60% of the record high seen in January 2022, although with this figure still being much higher than the 2014-2019 average.

The situation would “remain volatile for some time,” said Bryson, but there was room for a “slightly positive outlook” compared with the last few years, where the pandemic, energy crisis and war in Ukraine have all conspired against cheap and efficient shipping of goods.

Some more positive news, then, for both exporters and importers of wines, but also those looking to bulk to support their portfolio, including – increasingly – their more premium wines.