Wednesday, March 24, 2010

German Wine Exports Down in 2009

Picture: Hamburg, Germany

German Wine Exports Down in 2009

German wine exports were down in 2009 as exporters were affected by the worldwide economic crisis and the relative strength of the Euro. According to data issued by the German Wine Institute/Mainz, German wine exports fell by 6 percent in terms of volume in 2009.

“In addition to extremely difficult market conditions, the strong Euro added to the financial burden. Nevertheless, with a total export volume of some 200 million litres of wine valued at 394 million Euros, we’re still exporting at a level comparable with 2007,” explained the Wine Institute’s managing director, Monika Reule, just prior to the international wine trade fair ProWein in Düsseldorf (21 - 23 March, 2010). See more here.

Wine Producer Germany

With about about 102,000 hectares (252,000 acres or 1,020 square kilometers) of vineyard, which is around one tenth of the vineyard surface in Spain, France or Italy, the total wine production in Germany is usually around 9 million hectoliters annually, corresponding to 1.2 billion bottles, which places Germany as the eighth largest wine-producing country in the world. White wine accounts for almost two thirds of the total production.

The German wine industry consists of many small wine producers, totaling about 70.000. If you exclude the about 40.000 operators of less than 0.5 hectare who should probably be classified as hobby winemakers, you are down to 30.000 wine makers. Then, it gets a bit complicated. Many smaller winemakers do not pursue wine making as a full-time occupation, but rather as a supplement to other agriculture or to hospitality. It is not uncommon that a small family-owned tavern or restaurant has its own wine. If we move up to a minimum of 5 hectares, we get down to about 6.000 wineries, accounting for about 60 percent of Germany's total vineyard surface, and it is in this category that the full-time winemakers are primarily found. However, truly large wineries, in terms of their own vineyard holdings, are rare in Germany. Hardly any German wineries reach the size of New World wine making companies.

Wine Exports

Nearly 3/4 of Germany’s wine exporter revenues are generated in 4 regions: North America, Great Britain/Ireland, Benelux and Scandinavia. The US is the most important export market, followed by the UK and the Netherlands.

In the US, the total value of German wine imports declined by some 13 percent compared with 2008. But hopes are that this was only a temporary blip. Half a century ago, Americans consumed millions of bottles of white German wines with names like Blue Nun, Black Tower and Zeller Schwarze Katz. But as tastes changed, the American consumer turned to oaky Chardonnays from California and the German wines disappeared from the shelves. With them, unfortunately, went the appreciation of German wines by the American wine drinker. However, since the early 1990s, German wines have seen a renaissance in the US. From 2002 to 2006, exports of German wines to the US doubled every year. Germany's rehabilitation has taken time. The American consumer has finally embraced the country's often enervating, food-friendly wine styles, encapsulated by its finest grape variety - Riesling. Riesling is now the fastest-growing white grape variety in the US.

Developments in the British market were somewhat contradictory: on the one hand, German wine sales in terms of volume grew by 33 percent in the highly popular £5 - £6 price category (Germany was top performer among all imports); at the same time, the average price per litre remained relatively low and sales in the < £3 category have declined considerably. Overall, German wine exports to the UK fell by 19 percent in terms of volume.

“Despite these setbacks, we must continue to move forward by promoting quality rather than quantity,” said Reule. “We’ve been able to convince professionals and opinion leaders that our wines truly offer high quality. It will take time, however, for this message to reach consumers on a large scale.” Last year, German wines profited from the trend in Great Britain toward lighter, fruit-driven wines with a low alcohol content – the type of wines for which production conditions in Germany are perfect.

In Gemany’s third most important export market, the Netherlands, there was a noticeable increase in sales value and volume (12 and 10 percent, respectively) in 2009.

Double-digit growth rates in terms of value were also posted in smaller markets, such as Ireland and Poland (42 and 29 percent, respectively). With a one-percent increase in sales value in Norway, German wine exporters were market leaders in the white wine category.

In all, the Wine Institute’s managing director summed up the current market position of German wine on a positive note, saying: “In light of the growing international esteem for our wines, not least because of their quality – and particularly that of the current 2009 vintage – I am confident that we’ll see positive growth in our wine exports in tandem with an overall improvement in the global economy.”

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