The well-attended Annual Wines of Chile Awards (AWOCA) conference on 28 November was a key insight into the different markets that the nine international judges represented: Canada, Mexico, Brazil and Colombia. Each judge made a short presentation visiting different aspects of Chilean wine in their market.
With three judges this year from Canada, there were some clear pointers about what opportunities Chilean wineries have in North America. Stephen Schiedel from British Colombia spoke about the trend towards white wines, which pair well with the local cuisine, and the new buying power and trend setting ability of young consumers who are looking for something innovative and different. His main message for producers is to focus on the future: “You must be thinking about tomorrow.”
Eric Bertoldi introduced his talk by explaining the difference between Quebec and the rest of Canada. Describing it as a slice of Europe in North America, he emphasized the importance of understanding the different wine culture and that “our palate is more European”. Chile is still only a small part of the wine market with only 3% share in sales, compared to France’s enormous 34% and Italy’s 22% reflecting the tastes of the market. He sees an opportunity for Chile to impress with some of their more European style wines and a greater diversity of varieties.
The last representative from Canada was Carolyn O’Grady-Gold, Wine Director for the Ontario Liquor Board which nets $1.2billion annually. She says that although Ontarians like wine, they can be a bit conservative and so the shops “are trying to get people to buy a different wine, to try something new”. She attributed California’s whopping great 26% growth in the sales sector down to their innovative packaging and attractive marketing, concurring with Stephen’s view. Carolyn also explained that their stores are keen to push Chile’s image as sustainable with their organic and biodynamic wines. As sixth in wine sales, Chile has lots of room to muscle in on some more sales in this region which has a growing premium wine sector slowly departing from the traditional 1500ml bottle sales.
Moving on to talk about Mexico, the conference had judges Deby Beard and Pedro Poncelis. Deby is an important wine communicator in Mexico working in radio, television and written media. “I recommend you do more targeted tastings and promotions,” Deby told the conference, “do a lot more walk-in tastings, promotions and media so that Mexicans have Chilean wine at the top of their mind.”
Pedro Poncelis explained that although Mexico is a very large country, only 5% of the population has buying power to consume wine and most of those sales would be concentrated in tourist areas. While the current market is small, he believes the potential is great, “in the last 10 years we have more than doubled our consumption of wine”. And Chile, which he explained sits in third place in Mexico, is in a good position to attract more consumers especially, he highlighted, because of the special relationship and understanding that the countries have for each other.
The next market to be presented was Colombia by Victor Vargas, a journalist and editor specializing in wines. “Imagine our country in peace!” is how Vargas started, by explaining the great buying power that Colombia already has as the 4th economy in Latin America, but also the great potential for its wine culture in a more peaceful future. Victor predicts an increase in consumption of wine as the country witnesses “a growth of the middle class, more gastronomical focus, and good wine press in the media”. Chile dominates the market in Colombia with almost 60% of the share. However Victor warned the conference that this will change as Colombia’s trade agreement with Europe brings more European wine into the market. Victor encouraged Chilean wineries to show the ‘fabulous Chile’ with its diversity of wine, and not just the cheaper, good value wines.
First to represent the Brazilian quarter was Carlos Cabral, author of five wine books and an important wine figure in the country. He spoke of the positives in Brazilian wine consumption currently: “The interest in wine is very big, people want to talk about wine and drink wine.” He also said that 2014’s World Cup is a great opportunity for more wine drinking: “everything in Brazil ends in a party, we are going to drink lots!” Another great opportunity he highlighted is to target Brazilian wine drinkers when they are outside the country as wine tourism is catching and holiday-goers spend quite freely on wine while on holiday.
Eduardo Milan, a journalist and editor of Adega in Brazil, explained that there are many different profiles of consumers in Brazil which give Chile a great breadth of wines that can be successful in the country. Although he advised that Chile needs to show its diversity, as Brazil as a market believes that most of Chilean wines taste the same. While sparkling and white wine might go better with the climate, he confirmed that red wines are Chile’s strength in Brazil and that many consumers will drink “a glass of red wine a day” for good health.
The last of the Brazilian panel to speak was Jorge Lucki, a renowned wine journalist who spoke about the main markets for premium wines in Brazil. “What’s happened in the last years in Brazil has been an increase in middle/upper class to 59%,” he said. However he explained that while there is “a lot of interest in wine in Brazil” most people still cannot afford to buy wine at home as it is so expensive with importation taxes. What they can afford to do though, is travel. And through travel he believes they can access wine and this is the opportunity to reach the greater Brazilian market – through wine tourism. “For Brazilians, it is easier to pay for the flight, stay a week in a hotel and buy 15 bottles here to take them back!”
It was an interesting conference focusing on the importance of communicating and showing the great diversity of Chilean wine and its innovations, and looking to wine tourism initiatives to attract more consumers to Chile’s wine and improve the image of the country internationally.
By Amanda Barnes