Allegrini 2018

The best antidote to the probable negative effects of Brexit is the quality of Italian fine wines

The Wine Monitor survey for Grandi Marchi del Vino says Italy is in top positions in catering and e-commerce in the UK, and has large margins

Brexit, and its probable consequences is worrying, quite rightly, the wine producers around the world, because the United Kingdom is the number two global market for wine imports, totaling 3.5 billion euros in 2018, and therefore, second only to the USA. However, it would seem that the best antidote to potentially damaging consequences of Brexit, such as an increase in duties and consequently in bottle prices, would be quality. On the one hand, 42% of consumers say they would definitely reduce consumption in the event of a probable 10% increase in the bottle price, and on the other hand, 24% say they will not change their habits in any case. Instead, the percentage of those who say they will not change their wine consumption as long as quality remains high, is more than double (23%) those who say they are ready to abandon the glass. The main results of the Wine Monitor survey indicated that the English define fine wines primarily by the company brand, sensory qualities, originating from highly suitable territories, pairing with haute cuisine, and secondarily by the rankings of guides, the historicity of the brand, limited production, and their presence in top restaurants and wine shops. The survey carried out for the Istituto Grandi Marchi del Vino (institute of major wine brands), which was presented today in Rome, just before the vote to elect a new UK Government, is fundamental for higher value wines. And, awareness is growing in the direction that the price lever, linked to quality, can make the difference. The Istituto Grandi Marchi del Vino brings together 19 of the top Italian wine companies: Alois Lageder, Ambrogio and Giovanni Folonari Tenute, Antinori, Argiolas, Col d'Orcia Estate, Ca' del Bosco, Carpenè Malvolti, Donnafugata, Gaja, Jermann, Lungarotti, Masi, Mastroberardino, Michele Chiarlo, Pio Cesare, Rivera, Tasca d'Almerita, Tenuta San Guido and Umani Ronchi, that together total a turnover of 570 million euros and 6% value in foreign sales of the entire Italian wine export business. The UK is a strategic market for Italy, as overseas shipments are worth 13% of total exports, and are increasingly split into two sectors - a mass retail trade, where low-priced wines take the lion’s share, and a HORECA (hotels, restaurants and catering) channel.
“It is a critical aspect”, said Piero Mastroberardino, president of the Istituto Grandi Marchi del Vino, “considering the race with French competitors, who, not surprisingly at all, have recovered market shares through aggressive actions on Champagne, and considering also eventual price increases related to Brexit. These eventual price increases would inevitably influence purchases, leaving ample margins to low cost wines that 44% of the sample interviewed has indicated as the main purchasing factor at this historical moment. On the other hand, though, looking at the glass half-full, 38% of participants confirmed that the origin of the wine, and the brand are still priority selection criteria, placing Italy at the top of the list together with France and Australia. Therefore, we intend to focus on furthering the growth of the value of fine wines, working in a targeted as well as a more structured manner on strategic channels that go beyond retail, such as HORECA and online commerce, where the value and the appeal of our wines guarantee wide margins for development”.

The Wine Monitor survey for the Istituto Grandi Marchi del Vino also focused on the core dynamics related to English catering and e-commerce (which in the UK is worth over 10% of all wine sales). These sectors represent two key “markets” for top Italian wines to increase sales. One need only think that by analyzing 350 restaurants, representative of the London on-trade channel, 63% have at least one top Italian wine on their wine list (considering only 0.75 liter bottles priced over 50 Sterling pounds). According to the data, Italian fine wines represent 16% of all references priced higher than 50 Sterling pounds on the analyzed wine-lists. France is the only country, which in fact holds 57% of the total of the bottles over 50 pounds, that is better than Italy. Observing Italian wines on the whole, the ratio is 19% versus 50% in France. Tuscany and Piedmont are in the top 10 most prevalent territories of origin (respectively in 5th and 7th place in the ranking of top wines).
Performances recorded in the major English e-commerce sites for quality wines have also been very good. The web analysis carried out on Lay & Wheeler, Winedirect and Laithwaite’s, places Italy in a very good position in terms of number of references, especially on Lay & Wheeler, where there are almost 700 Italian wines. Regarding the most widespread typologies, instead, reds stand out (on Lay & Wheeler they represent 92% of Italian wines), while taking into consideration the regions that have larger assortments, both Tuscany and Piedmont shine (on average, 80% of our wines come from these two regions). Returning to fine wines (that is, over 35 Sterling pounds per bottle), on Winedirect it is 17%, on Laithwaite’s 20% and on Lay & Wheeler up to 58%. The latter is the site that has the widest range of top wines (Italian and others), however, Winedirect is the site that registers the highest prevalence of Made in Italy fine wines - almost 3 references out of 10.

“In a scenario of probable price increases”, explained Denis Pantini, manager of the consultancy company Nomisma Wine Monitor, “quality becomes the only factor able to keep consumption unchanged. This fact is confirmed by 20% of the English and this percentage increases to 23% of Italian wine consumers, reaching 27% among those who today are already consumers of top Italian wines”. The profile of the English consumer of fine Italian wines presents an interesting cross-section. They are mainly men, between 25 and 38 years old, Londoners, having incomes of more than 3.000 Sterling pounds a month, and a high level of education. They have a definite propensity for the web, to find out about and to buy wine, and they have traveled to Italy, preferring the regions of Tuscany and Sicily.
Finally, another section of the survey refers to promotion and therefore to English wine lovers’ favorite activities to deepen their knowledge of high quality Italian wines. The results show that 41% of the British interviewed in the survey consider tasting key as the most useful tool, especially in restaurants, wine bars and clubs, which represent the ideal channel mainly for older Millennials (28%) and for those having medium-high average monthly incomes (27%). Generally, even though today the majority of British people prefer to drink wine at home, we see a growing trend for quality consumption away from home, rather than large retailers (2 out of 3 consumers think so), especially regarding big cities like London, increasingly buzzing with restaurants and top chefs. It follows that one of the relevant factors in identifying a fine wine is precisely the possibility of combining refined foods and haute cuisine proposals (first choice criterion for 50% of consumers). Conclusively, the most influential aspects are brand (64%), superior sensory characteristics (62%) and origin from specific highly suited areas (52%).

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