NY producers “believe” in UK market

New York state’s producers are hoping for success in the UK in their first concerted export effort.

Finger Lakes

Speaking to the drinks business, Bob Madill, president of the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance, said that the UK was chosen as the region’s first major export market because: “We value the UK for its curiosity and open-mindedness”.

Seventy New York wines were recently imported to the UK through Wine Equals Friends and Madill said that the opportunity it presented was twofold.

First of all it was clearly a chance to gain some listings but also it was a chance to boost the region’s credibility back in the US as well as the rest of the world.

While some producers have independently organised small exports overseas before – Madill’s own vineyard Sheldrake Point has an importer in Denmark – this is the first time the wines have been exported en masse.

“It’s a big step for Finger Lakes,” he said, “It’s the first time we’ve gone into another market in a big way. But we don’t spend money frivolously and if we didn’t believe in this market we wouldn’t be here.”

The style of the wines is being viewed as a strength as well. The wines, both red and white, tend to be lighter and fresher than most US wines and Madill thinks that the “character of our wines fits the European palate”.

The step is being taken almost as a sign that the region has come of age. Madill stated that, to succeed, it was vital that the wines got more international exposure.

“It’s important to have the wines in markets where they’ll be appreciated properly,” he said.

“I can sell 85% of my stock from my cellar door but that can’t be the model we always work on.

“We need to be sophisticated and sell our wines elsewhere, not all of it but some. You have to compete in foreign markets if you are to succeed.”

Madill admitted that they were not expecting instant success. Finger Lakes andLong Islandare practically unknown – even to the trade – the wines are made in tiny quantities and are on average £10-£15 a bottle.

“We will never be a region known for volume and we can’t work on price,” Madill said. “But we can work on value.”

Nevertheless, he continued that the key point to take away from this year’s fair was the feedback from visitors to the stand to see where the producers and their importer should focus their effort.

“We’re not expecting miracles but we do want feedback,” he said. “We’re trying to judge reactions to the wines and their prices.”

So far the signs have been encouraging. When they exhibited last year, Madill said that the approach of most people had been purely “academic, ‘I’ve never had a Finger Lakes Riesling, I’ll try that’, this year it’s been, ‘how much is that?’,” he said.

“It’s like doing your homework and more importantly for us this year, we can respond to the interest we’ve received.”

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