Portuguese growth sparks consumer focus

ViniPortugal is using strong recent growth figures as a springboard to shift its UK focus towards strengthening consumer awareness of its wines.

Photo credit: Wines of Portugal

Photo credit: Wines of Portugal

Citing recent UK off-trade data for Portuguese wine sales, which show 16% value growth accompanied by a volume increase of 10% volume, Nuno Vale, marketing director for ViniPortugal, described himself as “really satisfied” with his country’s recent performance in this market.

Despite Portugal’s stronger reputation for red styles, he told the drinks business: “This growth is coming as much from white and sparkling wines. Our white wines have been improving so much and there’s a consumer trend that people want to buy lighter wines.”

This positive performance from the UK mirrors similarly strong sales of Portuguese wine in other key markets. Although final data for 2012 is yet to be released, Vale put Portugal’s global volume sales increase at 10.4%. “Things are working very well for us,” he remarked. “The buzz is there, we just need to fuel it.

As a result, Vale outlined a series of UK activities scheduled for this year, which will be headlined by wine writer and presenter Olly Smith’s selection of 50 Great Portuguese Wines.

Due to be announced on 18 April, this will mark the ninth year of the initiative, which has previously seen individuals including Julia Harding MW, Sarah Ahmed and Dr Jamie Goode compile their own selections.

Such has been its success in the UK that ViniPortugal is taking the format to its biggest markets, the US and Brazil, for the first time this year. The latter’s inaugural selection will be made by UK-based, Brazilian-born Dirceu Vianna Junior MW, wine director at Coe Vintners.

Vale explained that the decision to recruit Smith for this year’s UK task was linked to his relatively high profile among consumers, thanks to regular appearances on TV shows such as Saturday Kitchen and column in the Mail on Sunday magazine.

“I think professionals know about the quality of Portuguese wines,” observed Vale. “This year we realised that we really needed to send this message to the consumer.”

As part of this drive, the 2013 selection will feature a particular focus on wines priced from £7-£30, which was identified by Vale as a bracket where Portugal can offer particularly good value. “The independents are realising that sooner than the bigger distribution networks,” he remarked.

To support the announcement of Smith’s 50 Great Portuguese Wines, Vini Portugal will release a booklet suggesting pairing recommendations for the selection with British dishes.

“It might be difficult to understand all the regions and the names are difficult to pronounce, but we want to show it’s very easy to pair our wines with food,” explained Vale.

In order to help tackle the pronunciation challenge posed by many Portuguese wines, he revealed that ViniPortugal would also be releasing a series of videos towards the end of the year. “It’s small but will have a major impact,” Vale promised.

Despite its increasingly consumer oriented focus, the generic body will also launch a Wines of Portugal Academy for the UK trade this June.

The initial programme, which is being rolled out in several markets around the world, will take place in London and Manchester, comprising a one-day course pitched just above the WSET Intermediate level. Attendees will complete an exam at the end of the day, with those who pass receiving a certificate.

The organisation will also continue its “Discover a World of Difference” campaign, which sees ambassadors visiting shops around the UK to train staff, talk to consumers and pour samples of Portuguese wine. This year’s team of ambassadors is yet to be confirmed, but the 2012 line-up included wine writers Charles Metcalfe and Simon Woods.

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