Bulk wine is a sector that you cannot afford to ignore, representing an ever-increasing proportion of all the wine traded and shipped around the globe and is now a category worth an annual £3.5bn a year. Which is why next week’s World Bulk Wine Exhibition is for some the two most important days of the year. A time when the majority of bulk wine is traded, contacts are made and contracts are placed. It will once again bring a part of the wine industry together that for some operates in parallel universe to the world of premium wine. But one that is increasingly having an influence on how wine buyers source their wine. It is, as Helen Arnold, explains also the chance for insiders to get a 360-degree vision of what the bulk wine industry has to offer.
If you are in any way connected to the global bulk wine industry then the World Bulk Wine Exhibition is a must. Helen Arnold looks at the emerging bulk wine trends are and reveals the key highlights of the show.
Bulk wine continues to grow in importance, with 40% of the wine exported worldwide now in bulk format, with a value in excess of €3000 million.
Next week the movers and shakers of the global bulk wine sector will be making a beeline for Amsterdam for the 11th annual World Bulk Wine Exhibition. Attracting up to three quarters of the industry’s key players, the exhibition is the largest trade fair dedicated to bulk wine. Last year 250 producers from 22 countries attracted 6,500 visitors, and the organisers are confident the 2019 event will lure even more through the doors. It all takes place between December and 4 at Amsterdam RAI.
Since the show was set up 11 years ago, there have been “radical changes” in the industry, according to WBWE chief executive, Otilia Romero de Condes. There is simply no room for low quality wine for a start. The organisers say the event has shifted from being a mere trade fair to a complex business and discussion platform, providing a whole raft of opportunities, from tasting competitions, masterclasses to a major conference in its own right.
In recent years the small global harvests have put even more pressure on buyers and producers alike to find the right contacts to sell and buy wine, which again has given the show a new focus. It has affected buyers’ ability to source wine from their usual suppliers, with many forced to look for new producers from different countries. All of which the WBWE has set out to ensure can happen at its show.
Spain remains the world’s largest producer of bulk wine, but had a difficult 2018 with volume down by 1.3% and value a hefty 19.3%.
France bought less wine from foreign suppliers in the past year, importing 6.88 hectolitres of wine in 2018, 2019 compared with 7.18 hectolitres in the previous year. Over three quarters – 76% – of these wines are bought in bulk, and most have neither a geographical indication nor a varietal statement. It continues to struggle to source basic generic wines. Spain is its biggest source for imported wine with a 61% market share, driven mostly by bulk wine.
South Africa has also seen another challenging year, with the 2019 vintage being the lowest since 2005, due to the problems with drought in key grape growing regions. In the year to end of September, its bulk wine exports fell by 34% in volume and 19% in value, according to Rabobank.
Conversely, Chile’s bulk exports surged by 16% from January to August, mainly on the back of increased demand for bulk wines in China, the UK and the US. But this did come at the expense of bottled wines.
Neighbouring Argentina saw a continued increase in overseas volume shipments over the first eight months of the year – up by nearly 18%, fuelled largely by bulk exports, up by 67%. There was, though, no change in value.
Across the Atlantic, the US saw a slowdown in exports of bulk wine prices, with volumes up by around 4% and down by 1% in value during the first half of the year.
However, despite individual ups and downs the OIV claims that the overall global market has returned to a “very manageable” 263m hectolitres, with a more balanced trading market likely to emerge.
Spain and France may still be the world’s top producers, but de Condes claims that buyers are “looking for new challenges and new production areas” that offer much better value for money. It’s why there has been a big increase in “the importance of Eastern Europe”. North Macedonia, for example, will be making its debut at this year’s fair, while Moldova has increased its presence from 14 exhibitors in 2018 to 18 this year.
And in its latest Wine Quarterly, Dutch bank Rabobank points to “broadly stable” bulk wine prices in the coming months, which would seem to indicate a return to steadier trading conditions. Despite increased unpredictability in the market, caused by ongoing political crises such as Brexit and the issue of US trade tariffs on French and Spanish wines in particular, Rabobank claims “bulk wine prices for the near future are more likely to move up than to decline”.
According to EU figures, inventories across the region were up by 15%, rising from 154.6m hectolitres in 2018 to 178.4m this year.
Highlights of World Bulk Wine Exhibition 2019?
International Bulk Wine Competition
The only international contest that awards and promotes the quality of bulk wines from all across the globe, last year’s competition attracted almost 200 wines from 11 origins: Georgia, Spain, Argentina, Chile, Italy, Uruguay, France, South Africa, Australia, Romania and the US.
The number of entires has increased by 42% this year and will be judged by a panel of 30 wine tasters from 23 different countries. With wines from Argentina, Australia, Bulgaria, Chile, France, Georgia. Germany, Italy, Macedonia, Moldova, New Zealand, Romania, South Africa. Spain, US and Uruguay.
Voice of Wine
The “Voice of Wine” prize goes to the Italian “Alleanza delle Cooperative” in recognition of its work in support of the bulk wine sector and Italian wine sector. It consists of 480 cooperatives with 141,000 members who together are responsible for producing almost 60% of Italy’s overall wine production, 40% of its value worth € 5,200 million.
This prize is aimed at recognising those individuals, institutions or associations that are seen to be doing the most to support bulk wine. It will be announced on December 2 at the exhibition’s launch. Previous winners have included Wines of Moldova, ProChile, and Wines of South Africa.
Silent Tasting Room
Want to taste the entire world’s harvest in a single day? Then come to this exclusive tasting room where it will be possible to sample more than 400 wines.
Spirits make an entrance
The World Bulk Wine Fair has now expanded to offer spirits producers business opportunities and the chance to book a stand. Ones to watch out for include Bolero in Georgia, Distillerie de la Tour in France, US-based O’Neill Vintners & Distillers, and Alvisa from Spain.
There will also be a number of interesting and stimulating talks and debates on a wide range of issues during the event.
- There will be a debate on the US bulk wine sector with a panel of experts including Steve Daniel, the buyer for Hallgarten Wines in the UK; Erin Kirschenmann, editorial director of Wine Business Monthly; journalist Debora Parker Wong and oneologist at Artesa Vineyards Ana Diogo Draper.
- Tannat and other grape varieties in Uruguay will be debated by Martin Lopez, the international head of Uruguay’s National Wine Institute, while another round table will focus on climate change and the opportunities for wine exports from Eastern Europe with Andrian Digolean from the Moldova National Bureau of Vine and Wine.
- Trends in the Italian wine industry with a particular focus on sparkling wines, rosé and emerging wine regions will be discussed by Agnese Ceschi and Fabian Picolli from Wine Meridian.
- Recent developments in bulk wine for consumers and for producers will be the subject of a talk by Rafael del Rey, director of the OEMV (Spanish Wine Observatory).
- Meanwhile, grape varietals which are resistant to climate change will be the subject under discussion held by research and development director of Pera Pellenc group Jean Luc Favarel.
- Wines from the Occitane region of France will come under the spotlight with Bernard Auge, deputy director of Coop de France, Occitanie
- Alison Leavitt, managing director of the Wine and Spirits Shippers Association will focus on risk management, how to protect your investment and get to grips with cargo insurance.
- Discover Wines of Macedonia with Elena Mladenovska Jelenkovic, executive director of Wines of Macedonia.
- You can find out more about WBWE and the full conference programme by clicking here.