If you stop and ask a sommelier or a top wine buyer to pick out countries or regions where they are increasingly turning to both for interesting, eclectic wines, but also those that offer excellent value at all price points then time and again they will bring up the different regions of Portugal. What’s more it is also the local indigenous varieties that are becoming more popular with curious buyers. Which will be music to the ears of Sónia Vieira, marketing director of Wines of Portugal, who explains to Richard Siddle Wines of Portugal’s strategy to help grow Portuguese wines sales in the UK.
You can taste and see for yourself the big changes taking place right across Portugal at Wines of Portugal’s annual tasting on February 27. Here’s what’s been going on in Portugal behind the scenes.
Can you give us an update on how well Portugal is doing in terms of production and exports?
According to IVV data (Vine and Wine Institute), Portugal is the ninth country worldwide in terms of value and volume for exports. Total exports to the end of 2018 was €803,000 (IVV) up over 3% on the previous year.
The average price for Portuguese wines in exports has also increased, up 4% to €2.71 (2018) compared to 2017. Our main exports markets in terms of value are France followed by the US, UK, Brazil and Germany.
How important is the UK to Portugal and any standout varieties or regions?
As Portugal’s third most valuable market in terms of exports we cannot underestimate the importance of the UK market. It is also where all Portuguese sommeliers come to learn, where Portuguese producers want to sell their wines and where Wines of Portugal’s flag can fly.
Portugal is a country of blends, so we will never have one flagship grape. Instead we need to sell our regions more, and explain the diversity and range of wines available in 14 different regions that we have to show.
What is Wines of Portugal’s main strategy in terms of building exports in its key markets?
Our strategy is to reach €1 billion in 2023 and to achieve that we will concentrate 60% of the promotional investment on the four countries that Portuguese producers have identified as being the most strategic to their growth and where it is also important for us to have a strong budget all year round in order to tell our story most effectively. These markets are: the US, Brazil, China and Canada.
In addition we will reinforce our investments in new markets, such as Mexico and Denmark, whilst maintaining a regular investment in the other 10 markets, which we have been supporting for several years now.
In the UK our investment is €238,000 and we will be looking to adjust our approach a little in order to target new audiences and raise the awareness and presence of Portuguese wines in the market. We will be working hard to raise our profile with key players like sommeliers and the press.
As we’ve changed PR agency this year (The Wine Agency), we felt it was also important to share with key UK importers of Portuguese wines into the UK our plans for year so that we are all aligned and pushing in the same direction. The meeting took place on January 22 with about 30 importers gathered at Vinoteca City for a day of brainstorming.
Where are you seeing the most growth in new target markets?
Based on our 2018 data, the market that grew the most in value was Brazil (+16.4%), with an increase of 10% in the average price as well. We have also seen double digit growth in Poland ( +13.5%) Sweden ( +13.5%), Denmark ( + 11.8%) and Japan.
Most of the countries where we invest on a regular basis we saw growth in 2018 of 5% and 8%.
What are you doing specifically to grow sales in those target countries?
It’s important to adapt our approach to so that it is relevant to each market. Every year we do a review, and look at our promotion activities in each country to look at where we need to try new approaches to get better results in terms of exports.
In 2020 we will implement 99 different marketing activities, split by events, education, promotion and communication, in the 16 markets where we invest on a regular basis.
Can you talk us through the 2020 programme you have in place for the UK?
The key part of our strategy for 2020 will be our Wines of Portugal Annual Tasting on February 27 which this year we are hosting at the Boiler House.
More than 72 Portuguese producers and their importers will present their new vintages and wines to the trade and press on that day, which will be followed by a special Three Wine Men event inviting consumers to come and taste Portuguese wines.
Bursaries are available to independent retailers from all over the country (+30 miles from London) wishing to attend the tasting. We really hope Portugal can take over London on that day!
We know that almost all the top sommeliers from all over the world come to the UK to further their education and taste wines from every corner of the globe. With this in mind and knowing how important Portuguese wines are to the UK’s on-trade, we are developing an exciting new initiative to show them our wines.
We are going to hold three tastings in three different locations in London, with each one showing a different styles of Portuguese wines. We want to be able to truly demonstrate the diversity of our country’s production.
It will be an opportunity to use different venues to showcase the most modern styles of wine, from all levels, that Portugal is offering. We will also be choosing a Portuguese location so that we can also show how these wines work when paired with Portuguese food.
How about direct marketing?
We are also doing a lot more on social media and have upgraded our various accounts to Wines of Portugal UK (@WPTUK) so that they are aligned to the international strategy of the brand.
We will look to use our different social media accounts across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to share news, pictures and facts about Portuguese wines in the UK as well as being able to showcase the beauty of the Portuguese landscape and vineyards.
We were also pleased to be one of the main sponsors at this year’s People’s Choice Wine Awards, where we were able to show our enthusiasm for new producers by sponsoring the Unsigned Talent category and are also working with the awards to encourage more Portuguese wine producers to enter in the future.
We are also going to work closely with influential blogger in luxury travel, Mrs O Around the World, who is a Portuguese national living in the UK, who will be able to share her passion for our wines with a new joint project with Wines of Portugal to find new ways to spread the news to her many followers.
What have been the big changes in Portugal in terms of styles and what different regions are doing with their viticulture?
Portugal is now more and more internationally known for some amazing new producers who are producing natural and organic wines. Our special climate means Portugal is a great country for more producers to make these kind of wines.
We have also seen the revival of old traditions like the Vinho de Talha (wines made in Amphora). This is a huge tradition mainly in Alentejo and we are seeing and more and more producers making their wines in this way again.
Producers are also far more interested in using our many indigenous grapes and that is proving to be a real asset as it means we can create wines that have an international style, but are also increasingly more popular with those consumers who are looking for something different and to try new experiences. This is clear when looking at what successes we are having in sales all over the world.
Is it the time for some of the lesser known regions to really shine?
The beauty of Portugal really is its diversity. So even inside a better-known region, like the Douro, you will always find new and exciting projects showing different aspects of the region.
There are some regions that are showing a huge potential in terms of organic and natural wines’ production for example: Lisboa. Beira Interior and its high altitude wines is showing new potential as well. Azores again shows a different side of Portugal.
As acclaimed UK wine writer and expert on Portugal Sarah Ahmed wrote recently: “In February 2010, I unveiled my 50 Great Portuguese Wines at a trade and press tasting in London. Ten years on, Portugal’s dynamic wine scene still makes my pulse race!”
Portugal has a reputation for good quality but value wines – is that how you see its future or do you want to change that?
To answer this, there is no better person that Judy Kendrick who has been such a strong partner for Portugal over the years: “When I started working with Portugal 20 years ago, our overriding task was to convince trade and press alike that Portugal was more than just about Port and a low cost wine country. This was a reality of the past and in the last 20 years, the quality of the wines, the confidence and knowledge of the producers has grown beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.
“Whilst it is true that Portugal still offers great value at each price point, I believe it is the great quality that has convinced the trade and consumers and this has been the driver behind the growth of the category.”
Tell us about your annual tasting on February 27?
We are excited to have a new location to match the trendy Portuguese wines we will have on show. And we hope it gives another vibe to the tasting. As this year’s tasting is being held at The Boiler House, 152 Brick Lane, London E1 6RU.
There will be 72 producers at the tasting, covering all the main Portuguese wine regions. It’s important for us to show how Portugal is modern, producing wines that the UK wants and is buying: fresh whites, organic wines from several regions. It’s also a way to make a statement about the fact that we are ‘master of blends’.
To help the visitors get a better understanding of those regions we are putting on a series of masterclasses and hosting free pour tables: Master of Blends; Organic Wines; Atlantic Influence; Whites to Excite
10.30am: Masterclass 1 – Taking Portugal’s pulse by Sarah Ahmed (by registration only – please email WinesofPortugalUK@thewineagency.pt ).
2pm: Masterclass 2 – The refreshing modernity of Portuguese wines by Piotr Pietras MS (by registration only, email WinesofPortugalUK@thewineagency.pt )
11am-5pm: Trade and press tasting with 72 wine producers
5.30-8.30pm: Consumer tasting with The Three Wine Men
- To register for the Wines of Portugal tasting go to this link.