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UK market still ‘very good’ for Austrian wine

At a tasting held in London earlier this week, Austrian producers expressed interest in tapping further into the UK market, though complications resulting from Brexit remain a major concern.

Copyright: Austrian Wine / Christopher Gunsen

The Austrian Wine tasting, held in London’s Science Museum on Monday 6 February, showcased Austrian wines from across the country’s viticultural regions, with expressions of Grüner Veltliner, Riesling and Zweigelt particularly well represented.

In 2021, 2.62% of the value of Austrian wine exports was from sales to the UK, making it the eighth most valuable international market, worth around €5.67 million (slightly above the pre-pandemic figure from 2018 of €5.39m). Germany, by contrast, was in first place with a 43.73% share, followed by Switzerland and the USA (10.86% and 8.72% respectively).

Among the producers eager to break into the UK market was Kamptal’s Hiedler. Dietmar Hiedler, who runs the winery with his brother Ludwig III, revealed to db that its wines were imported by Berry Bros. & Rudd until 2015, but that he was “keen” to make inroads back into the UK.

However, though most of those producers in attendance either had UK representation or were seeking it, there were worries about the added complications for importing that have come with the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.

One new difficulty is the need for the back label of bottles destined for the UK to state the name of the importer. Though Andre Neves, senior commercial manager at Ehrmanns Wines, which imports several wines from Winzer Krems (situated in Wachau), said that it was a “little hurdle”, he commented that these additional requirements stack up: “The paperwork, the cost…There’s a lot of friction, we need to smooth things.”

Indeed, concerns about the growing pile of paperwork necessary for exports to the UK were shared by a number of producers.

René Pöckl started selling his wines on the UK market last year, two years after Brexit was made official. In that time, he has already noticed changes: “It’s getting more and more difficult to ship the wines. There’s more paperwork, it’s just not that easy anymore, it’s also difficult to re-sell from the UK to the continent…We have to be optimistic that it’s going to get better.”

However, though there was a sense of frustration, many still expressed a desire to make the best of a difficult situation. Gunther Neukamp, of Nestor in Neusiedlersee, explained that the UK remains an important market: “In the fine wine market, the UK is still very interesting, but for the mass market it is now more complex…The fine wine market in the UK is very well developed, in London particularly people understand quality.”

Markus Lentsch of Seegut Lentsch, also in Neusiedlersee, summarised his view: “We can work with Brexit – it is like it is.” Several other producers db spoke with also echoed this sentiment.

There may also be opportunities for Austrian wine beyond Europe. Pöckl first sold his wines in China in 2012, and though Covid caused sales to drop due to the closure of on-trade channels, the ongoing trade war between Australia and China (which has severely dented the value of Australian wine exports) has opened up a chance for him to capitalise: “Before they [the Chinese market] just wanted to have our wines because they’re so different from Australian wines, but now they can see the quality. We have more acidity, more liveliness and tannin structure. We have more complexity and age-ability.”

In 2021, the value of exports of Austrian wine to China increased by 77.9%, though the People’s Republic just missed out on being in the top 10 most valuable export markets.

In related news: Is Blaufränkisch a great variety?

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