Austrian wine chief slates "stupid" Brexit

Brexit is “the most stupid idea” in British history and “a catastrophe for the country”, according to Austrian Wine Marketing Board head Willi Klinger.

He told DRN: “I love Britain and it has always been great that the UK is part of the EU, and so everything – especially that part of it – was positive.

“But the whole spirit of Brexit is stupid and awkward. It is old- fashioned and outdated. It was a politically mismanaged thing of the first degree and I say all of this not as a criticism of the UK but really as a feeling of deep regret.

“So what can we do about it in the wine trade? Well, there will still be a need to import wine, as there are not enough vines yet growing in the UK, although there are some great wines being produced. Britain will still have to import wine and I don’t think that even Boris Johnson and the like would ever consider a country with no wine being imported.

“We should work together to minimise the effect of Brexit. There will still be Austrian wine in the UK and it won’t be easier for any of us, but I don’t foresee a big decline, except perhaps in the overall economy.

“We don’t know yet how much it will affect the price. It is not a positive thing but we will make the best of it. We are focused on specialised retail, and Austrian wine is already a niche and more premium part of the wine market in the UK, so if £1 is added to our wines it probably won’t be noticed as much by the consumers of Austrian wines.”

Klinger, who is poised to step down after 13 years in the role to pursue other projects, said the country’s flagship wine – Gruner Veltliner – is doing well in the UK, but the message to retailers is that, aside from this grape, there is so much more to find.

“It’s always worth mentioning Riesling. Germany leads the way, and then there’s the Alsace and us. Then, in addition, we have one of the greatest terroirs for Sauvignon Blanc. It’s not so well known because of New Zealand and Chile and other nations,

but I think some of the greatest Sauvignon Blanc in the world grows in Austria.

“And then there are the niche grapes, which are great for independents, and these are wines that the supermarkets can never do. It’s a great opportunity to find something where you don’t have any competition from supermarkets.

“The Austrian wine industry is small and very family-driven, and not so much about brands. This fits well with independent retailers.”

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