Half full or Half Empty? Selling New World Wines in Germany

New World brands have been important to the German wine market. They anticipated trends and helped to set new stylistic benchmarks. Today, this is only partly true, but the strongest brands are still doing well, as Clemens Gerke discovers.

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Image: Denis Rozhnovsky, Stockadobe.com
Image: Denis Rozhnovsky, Stockadobe.com

 

  • New World wines do not enjoy a solid place in the German trade. Gone are the days when they reliably helped to influence consumer choice.
  • Even so, big brands from Australia, South Africa, California and South America have secured a place on the shelves.
  • Innovative producers are using new styles – and traditional European ones - to grow their market share.
  • Italian-style red wine made with the appassimento method and white wine produced from aromatic varieties like Moscato are fashionable.
  • Robert Mondavi and Penfolds are among the brands benefiting from premiumization.
  • Sustainability and authenticity are strategic advantages for New World wines, but German professionals and consumers see these wines as having less regional character than examples from Europe.

 

According to the IRI, retail sales of New World wines fell in volume by 21.5 percent in the year ending November 2021. In value terms, however, the drop is much smaller at just 14.5 percent, reflecting some trading up. It is also worth noting that the decline was not evenly shared "Within the sharply shrinking market, most of our brands have nevertheless shown positive growth," reports Rainer Sieling, marketing director at Eggers & Franke in Bremen.

Sieling attributes this to the quality of the products and support that has been given with regard to distribution and communication. Eggers & Franke's portfolio includes brands such as Yellow Tail, Peter Lehman, and Golden Kaan, as well as the Chilean brand Mapu from Baron Philippe de Rothschild and the wines the leading Italian producer Masi makes in Argentina.

European influences: Primitivo and Moscato

Masi’s Passo Doble blends Venetian traditions with the grape varieties and climate of South America. Its name deliberately evokes thoughts of best-selling Southern Italian Primitivos made by the Doppio Passo or appassimento process of passing young wine over partly dried grapes to start a second fermentation. In Argentina, the same method is used with Malbec and Corvina grapes to produce wines that will appeal to fans of that style.

Nina Schröppel of Mack & Schühle also sees a trend towards “primitivo-ization” among red New World wine, but also notes an even stronger growth in sales of another very different Italian classic. "With regard to white wine, the fresh, fruity aromatic Moscato has become more and more important."

Eggers & Franke launched a Moscato in the Yellow Tail range in 2021 and is following up with one for the South African Golden Kaan in April. This is a second example of the variety from that country, following on the heels of the Two Oceans version that was launched in summer 2021.

Premiumization on the rise

Discounting is very important when it comes to selling New World wines in Germany but this, in turn, relies on high volumes for profitability. So any loss in sales can have a significant impact on brand-owners’ bottom line.

Some of the losses can be explained by changes in consumer behavior. "Overall, average prices are rising faster than the market as a whole. Specifically sales of many higher-priced brands are climbing, which indicates premiumization," says Sieling, emphasisng the positive aspects of the statistics.   

Maximilian Scheld also notes positive developments at Wein Wolf: "We have seen premiumization over the last two years, which is to the benefit of all our overseas partners. Within the individual portfolios of our partners, Montes, Villa Maria, Mondavi, and Penfolds, the higher-quality wines are doing better. This was not related to a reduction in sales of the entry-level wines; it was the premium segment showing disproportionate growth." He went on to say this was particularly true for Penfolds, where supply failed to match demand for some wines.

Scheld is confident that he could reignite the on-premise sector, which has suffered over the last two years. "In general, the feedback from the segment is positive, and from many conversations we have the feeling that restaurants are more and more willing to supplement wine lists with high-quality overseas wines. This is growing compared to the last few years," he says. The Charles Smith Wines, which Wein Wolf will be selling exclusively to specialist retailers and restaurants from March, are expected to provide an additional boost.

Sustainability and Authenticity as Structural Advantages for the New World

For Nina Schröppel, the success of New World wines depends on the strength of individual brands. So, she says, ”Mack & Schühle was able to maintain – or even increase the leading role of brands like Brancott Estate from New Zealand, Nederburg from South Africa, Trapiche from Argentina, Casillero del Diablo from Chile and Gallo or Barefoot from the US."

Schröppel continues to note structural advantages enjoyed by New World wines. "Reds in particular often offer better value for money than wines from Europe." The mixture of all-rounders like Cabernet Sauvignon and local varieties is also consumer-friendly, she adds.

Compared to the market as a whole, New World wines are having a more difficult time. Sustainability and authenticity are more important than ever but so is regionality (“buy local”), and this is a key factor that s not associated with New World wines. The other two attributes have to make up for that for the wines to be successful, Schröppel said.

This is another reason for premiumization, she continues, since authenticity and sustainability cannot be credibly associated with retailer private-label brands. With original brands, on the other hand, Mack & Schühle sees opportunities. "Since the beginning of 2021, we have been working with Two Oceans on an initiative to reduce ocean plastic in cooperation with OceanMata. And we will set up a campaign to promote the WWF Conservation Award recently presented to Nederburg," Schröppel explains.

What next?

New World wines are not in an easy position in the German market today. Even apart from the logistical challenges suffered by wines that have to be shipped across the globe, they struggle against the tides of fashion. But the big producers’ strong brands can set themselves apart and succeed. New challenges need to be addressed by the generic marketers of some of the most dynamic New World regions

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