By Bernard Budel, European Market Manager for Villa Maria Estate
For many years there has been a relationship between the ‘Old’ countries of Europe and the developing and emerging ‘New’ countries of the Asia/Pacific region (even if some of these new countries are older than the old countries). Originating in the trade of Silk in antiquity, it later included tourism and natural resources, now the New World is trading with goods that once were synonymous with the Old World, one such example is fine wine.
The European continent, on paper, looks like a dream market for a New World wine exporter. There is an established wine culture, good income levels and great network of importers and distributors with decades of experience. There is a catch though, selling wine to Europeans is like teaching Inuit about snow or explaining a new method of making Sushi to a restaurateur in Tokyo. We are dealing with experts here. As such we really do need a compelling reason for them to listen, and luckily for myself, the New Zealand landscape has been able to create something truly special.
From the crisp, vibrant and sensational Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc to the balanced, graceful and seductive Marlborough Pinot Noir ,and more recently with the power, depth and spice of Hawkes Bay Syrah, New Zealand produces a quality of wine to equal that of the best Old World producers.
So the plan in Europe for Villa Maria was and is a simple one. A microphone in one hand, pouring our wine with the other, the story and the taste need to be taken to the people. For the past 11 years this approach has been slowly making inroads.
While New Zealand wine represents only about 1% of the European market (outside of the UK), we have been growing every year. Villa Maria sales are up 30% from a year ago and I am forecasting for accelerated growth as the European economy recovers from the global credit crunch. To aid in this growth I travel extensively throughout Europe, bottles of wine in tow, to some interesting places.
I think we can safely say that New Zealand’s most awarded wines may also be the most travelled.
2011 and beyond is an exciting time. With a focus from the Nordic monopolies on New Zealand, a growing awareness of New Zealand wine styles in Germany, The Netherlands, and Eastern Europe and a busy travel plan, the New Zealand wine experience will be even more accessible to the people of Europe.
The Old World is fast accepting and embracing the New World, and Villa Maria is determined to be at the forefront of this.