EU - What is EU wine?

Exploring how to improve the competitiveness of EU wine

A couple of weeks ago I participated as speaker in a conference on the ‘Competitiveness of EU wine’, organised by the European Commission at Expo Milano 2015.

One of the issues which I found myself tackling while preparing my speech was about definition: what do we actually mean when we say ‘EU wine’? Can there really be a shared set of characteristics which define and differentiate EU wines from those of any other continent?

If you are a Eurosceptic, your immediate answer might predictably be “No way!”, and to some extent, that would be fair enough. Our experience tells us that the positioning of different EU countries varies enormously, while the positioning of different regions within a country can vary as drastically as the producers within a single region. If it’s difficult to speak about ‘wines from Bordeaux’ or about ‘Spanish wines’ as being homogeneous entities, then it really is a conceptual leap to speak about ‘EU wines’, isn’t it?

There is, however, one overriding factor which unites almost all European producers: the fact that the vast majority of their markets are saturated and declining. As evidenced in our Compass 2015-2016 research tool for assessing the attractiveness of different markets, most European markets belong to either the ‘Mature’ or ‘Established’ market categories (both types of markets are declining at a rate of 1% a year, on average). There are only two European markets categorised as ‘Emerging’ – Poland and the Czech Republic – and yet the strongest brand in the largest of these, Poland, is the Californian brand Carlo Rossi.

European wine markets, therefore, must adapt to the fact that they will increasingly need to look outside Europe to grow. So maybe, after all, there is something that unites EU producers: the need to change their mindset and start thinking about how to communicate with consumers from a very different cultural background and with little existing wine culture. The EU must work together not only by facilitating business and seeking positive trade agreements, but also by understanding how to speak with a consumer that looks very different to what they are used to.

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Author: Juan Park