Estonian Market: the producers should study Importers background
Interview to Hevelin Hansson, importer and founding member of The Estonian Sommelier Association
I graduated from the Sommelier Courses in Estonia 16 years ago and in 2000 I was a founding member of The Estonian Sommelier Association. In 2004 I won a sommelier competition that was organized by German wine organization and Phare support by Guy Bonnefoit. I started to work in Pernod Ricard Estonia 15 years ago and today I work here as Luxury Portfolio Manager. My responsibility is to develop the sales and marketing of Luxury wines, champagne and cognacs, to cooperate with producers and brand owners, and to educate local consumers. Big part of my job is planning and analyzing. I am also a lecturer in Estonian Sommelier School and I give lectures about Italian Wine to beginners, junior sommeliers and sommeliers.
How do you view the potential of Italian wine in Estonia in terms of market potential?
Estonian wine market has developed quickly. New World cheap wines mostly from Chile and cheap Spanish wines are still market leaders, but the share of the wine countries of the Old World France and Italy â" has been growing each year. Italian wine has been very popular in the last 5 years. During that period number of new Italian restaurants have been established, and many new independent wine importers whose focus is only Old World wines have started business. According to our local Alcohol Register, we have more than 200 importers, that compared to our small population â" Estonia has only 1,3 M inhabitants (see my chart below) is quite a lot.
How do you think Italian producers can improve their performance in the Estonian market? What do you suggest?
Good sample here is the Austrian Embassy and their active work to introduce Austria as a wine country. During several years they have organized big events; they invite journalists, sommeliers and wine merchants to educating lectures about their country, terroir and grape varieties. They invite ~20 producers who are not represented in our market to show their products and make a tasting. Some Italian Wine Consortiums from different Italian wine producing areas have also been here, but not recently. We have active Sommelier Association and it is good to contact with it, because all main significant importers are also members of that organization.
What do you think of the quality/price ratio of Italian wines in the Estonian market?
We have already very wide selection of Italian wines. Bad side is that in supermarkets the focus is on cheap wines and sometimes very bad quality Soave, Chianti, Puglia, Umbria and Pinot Grigi, that is disappointment to consumers, who usually donât know much about wine. Some big market chains started to by wines directly from Italy and there are no wine experts working in this kind of companies and they select wines from fairs based by lowest price and attractive packaging.
What qualities do you personally appreciate most in Italian wines?
I would like to make difference between âeveryday wineâ with good price-quality ratio and special wines and rarities for celebration and gifts. As everyday wine I prefer nice Gavi di Gavi, Friuli Ribolla Gialla, simple and mineral Vermentino etc, good soft tannins few years matured Bolgheri red, Brunello and Vino Nobile. For rare occasions Super Toscana pearls, Barolos and Brunellos. My last trip to Italy was educating me to appreciate TrentoDOC Metodo Classico Pas Dose and beautiful millesimato reserve sparklingâs.
Please mention the potential of which white varieties and which red varieties do best in your market
Pinot Grigio, Trebbiano and blends, Sangiovese and blends, but also wines like Soave, Valpolicella and Chianti are popular and selling a lot. Cheap Amarones are coming to market and Prosecco has been trendy last 3 years.
What is your advice to Italian producers looking to enter your market?
Our market is very price sensitive. Important is to know what is producers target â" are they oriented to off-trade or on-trade. Off-trade: good price-quality ratio is the most important, easy to read labels, back label to describe wine character and food recommendation. On-trade is also looking for cheaper wines, but here quality is more important. For on-trade also terroir based good producers from different wine areas are attractive and of course all well-known Gambero Rosso and other competition winners. My suggestion is that the producers should study Importers background, because now there are many new wine importers here, who do not have cooperation with local on-trade or off-trade venues and who sell only to few places or private clients. Always they can ask for help from our Sommelier Association.
Please wrote a few lines on the philosophy of the company you work for.
Pernod Ricard Estonia is carrying international Pernod Ricard company philosophy and is adapted to local market conditions. Company has leadership position and Pernod Ricard strategy is illustrated by the upscaling or âPremiumisationâ of our complete portfolio of international brands. The Group also relies on innovation, a major driver of value creation, and on its strong positions in market. Being number 1 means firstly being the one who is the driver of the industryâs growth. But it is also a mind-set. It is the mind-set of one who dares to create, to innovate, to change the rules. This is why innovation is at the heart of our strategy.
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