Branding key to Portuguese progress

Portugal needs to prioritise stronger branding for its wines, regions and grape varieties, concluded a UK trade panel in a discussion hosted by ViniPortugal at this year’s London International Wine Fair.

According to off-trade data analysts Nielsen, Portuguese wine sales still account for less than one percent of the UK market.

Identifying elements holding Portugal back in the UK, Danny Cameron, director of specialist Portuguese importer Raymond Reynolds, stressed: “the country has to be better at creating commercial brands which are relevant to the markets where they are sold.”

He also urged importers and producers to “get closer to sommeliers and independent retailers to mobilise their ability to hand sell these wines – not a lot of people are going to come in looking for Portuguese wine.”

To illustrate this point, Joan Torrents, wine buyer for UK pub group Mitchells & Butlers, highlighted a survey carried out by the company across 20,000 customers in its 200 Vintage Inns outlets. When asked about wine buying preference in relation to country, customer responses placed Portugal well outside the top 10.

“It’s great to have a wine you love, but if it doesn’t bring customers in then it’s no good,” he summarised of Portugal’s failure to win listings in all but two outlets in the 1,600-strong Mitchells & Butlers UK pub portfolio.

In addition to stressing the need for Portugal to strengthen its commercial brands, Cameron argued for better “sub-branding” of the country’s grape varieties and regions.

“The Douro is now the most famous region in Portugal, but after that the consumer has absolutely no awareness whatsoever,” he argued. With 98% of UK visitors to Portugal going to the Algarve, Cameron also called on ViniPortugal to work more closely with the country’s tourism and gastronomy organisations to create “a more cultural experience for the consumer.”

Describing Touriga Nacional as “a fantastic grape variety,” Cameron nevertheless noted: “outside the confines of the London International Wine Fair, no one’s heard of it.”

As for one of the country’s other major varieties, Cameron pointed to the confusion and generated by a grape called Tinta Roriz in the north, Aragones in the south and Tempranillo in the rest of the world.

Voicing support to Portugal’s indigenous varieties, Torrents observed: “It’s about taking the grapes they have and just shouting about it. 20 years ago no one had heard of Prosecco. Get one, get behind it and get on with it.”

In summary, Cameron stressed the importance for Portugal of building familiarity of its unfamiliar regions or varieties, using the popularity of Rioja as an example as he remarked: “Even if people don’t know what it means, it creates confidence and especially important is that they know how to pronounce it. We now spend as much time training people in pronunciation as all the technical detail.”

In response to these comments, Nuno Mendes, marketing director for ViniPortugal, agreed: “We have to speak a little louder in the market.” However, as a counterbalance to the modest picture painted by Nielsen, Mendes pointed to his country’s export figures as he reported: “In the last three years Portugal’s UK exports have doubled.”

Attributing this growth largely to the UK independent and on-trade sectors, Mendes also set this performance within the broader context of Portugal’s 22% growth in wine sales to the European Union, with a 21% uplift outside the EU.

Nick Oakley, director of specialist Portuguese importer Oakley Wines, also painted an upbeat picture of the country’s progress within the UK “across all sectors” during the last year alone.

Highlighting four new lines taken by Tesco for its premium own label Finest range, Oakley also pointed to the decision by independent merchant Tanners to introduce an own label Douro wine, of which 900 cases were pre-sold. “Portugal is really taking off,” he observed.


One Response to “Branding key to Portuguese progress”

  1. Freddie Cobb says:

    You generally don’t see people kicking up a fuss, about Syrah and Shiraz, even Down Under, as if you buy a bottle Labelled Shiraz, you know it’s going to be punchy and Syrah smooth. The same can be said of Tinta Roriz, Aragonez and Tempranillo. Even though, they may genetically be almost identical, they produce very different wines. But granted, Portugal needs identify it’s niche brand whether it be a region and/or a variety, before the Californians take Touriga Nacional away and the same with Verdelho in Australia.

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