Le Lézard
Subject: TRD

To Simplify or Not to Simplify: Should EU Wine-makers Simplify Denominations to Engage the Russian Market?

VERONA, Italy, May 31, 2019 /PRNewswire-PRWeb/ -- The majority of European wine labels sold in Russia still remain relatively obscure to the common consumer. This is the opinion of the 27 individuals who joined the Native Grape Odyssey (NGO) program, an EU-financed educational project aimed at promoting European high-quality wine abroad. The project was designed to help wine specialists to acquire the necessary knowledge to thereafter return to their home-turf and educate lay-people such as Russian shop assistants and wine lovers on European high-quality wine.

The April 8th edition of the Corriere Vinicolo, an Italian newspaper dedicated entirely to the world of enological, reserved a significant part of its pages to a discussion about the Italian wine classification system. The debate gained traction because of a survey conducted by Corriere Vinicolo regarding 470 Italian PDO (Protected Denomination of Origin) and PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) wines sold over a five-year period. The majority of the interviewees proposed a radical review of the wine appellations, but a significant minority insisted that eliminating a portion of the labels could result in a system-wide depreciation. Regardless where debaters stood on the issue, both sides generally felt there was a sense of urgency to demystify the system in order to improve the general confusion created by the great number of existing wine appellations.

Italian wine producers are concerned that there is a dilution of the perception of quality created by the great number of denominations present on the market. Ernesto Abbona, president of Unione Italiana Vini (UIV, Italian Wine Companies Association), stated that in Italy there is "an uncontrolled proliferation of denominations, so much so that it is no longer bearable"; he went on to say that "the market is going in the opposite direction: it rewards simple and clear messages because they are different and signify identity."

On the other hand, there is the possibility that eliminating or unifying wine denominations could mean banalizing the product itself. Despite being less popular than the first one, this opinion is shared by Riccardo Cotarella, president of Assoenologi (Italian Enologists Association), who believes that "our wine now more than ever needs to highlight the value of its numerous characteristics related to the land of production." He also pointed out that "not all the markets are low-priced; there are millions of educated and curious consumers in the world, who pay attention to every detail of the wine." However, he admitted that at the current state of things, "only a few dozen of Italian wine appellations are known at a global level."

Both opinions highlight that a demystification of the wine classification system is necessary to aid foreign consumers when engaging with Europe's numerous wine appellations. The European Union is fully aware of the situation, and for this reason has created educational programs to promote its quality-labeled products abroad, including the Native Grape Odyssey (NGO) project, whose target countries are Canada, Japan and Russia.

The Russian Federation is one of the markets where European wine may not have reached its full potential. Organisation Internationale de la Vigne et du Vin (OIV)'s analysis in 2018 reports that Russia is the seventh largest wine importer in the world, with these wines mainly sourced from the European Union (the top three export countries to Russia are Italy, France and Spain). Despite this, the 27 wine experts from Russia who joined the NGO project feel that the majority of Russian consumers still lack knowledge on PDO and PGI European wines and therefore on what makes their labels special. Olga Drobinina, founder and director of a sommelier school, commented, "as a wine educator, I am aware of the importance of European quality labels, but most Russians are not." NGO participants agreed that wines are usually purchased based on two criteria; it is primarily a question of price, followed by the wine's acclaim. Drobinina continued by saying, "Unfortunately, many Russian people pay attention only to the price and there are very few people who really know what they really want to buy." Denis Rudenko, wine educator and sommelier, reinforced her statement by saying: "Even the high target consumer chooses the wine for its name and not for the certification label." Wine educator Veronika Denisova shared her colleagues' opinions noting that the Russian financial crisis of 2014 undoubtedly created an increased awareness of the price-to-quality relationship in Russian consumers, causing them to become more cautious in their purchases.

However, retailors usually lack the necessary information about European wine to discern products of authentic quality and cannot relay the pertinent details to consumers. This means that consumers eventually rely exclusively on price and recognizable labels, thus risking being fooled by imitations and low-quality products. Therefore, there is significant hope resting on the NGO participants' shoulders. They have chosen to become those who will provide the necessary knowledge to their clients in the Russian market, increasing overall consumer comprehension of the high value behind these quality denominations. Their goal in joining the NGO project is to acquire further knowledge on European native grapes, so that they can in turn disseminate this information and provide wine consumers with the necessary tools to purchase what they are really looking for.    

About: Native Grape Odyssey is a project financed by the European Union and managed by Unione Italiana Vini and Zante Agricultural Cooperatives Union for the promotion of PDO and PGI European wines abroad, in particular in three countries: Japan, Canada and Russia. In order to achieve this, the Native Grape Odyssey educational program will organize wine seminars, workshops and b2b meetings both in these countries and in Verona, Italy, inviting wine experts and influencers from these countries. These events, realized in the span of three years (2019-21) aim at creating awareness about European native wines abroad, in particular Italian and Greek wines, which share a long tradition and a high standard of quality.


SOURCE Native Grape Odyssey

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