Rhone confident in UK sales growth

Generic body Inter Rhône is confident in the region’s ability to grow UK sales in 2019 after working hard to improve the overall quality of its wines. 

UK volume sales decreased by 11% and value sales declined 2% in 2018 for the Rhône, but it has noticed an upturn this year. 

Caroline Vigneron, marketing export manager for the UK and northern Europe, told DRN: “The UK is very competitive and challenging. Everybody has had some difficulties in recent years and some regions and countries have seen a drop in sales. We are quite optimistic that those years are behind us and that 2019 will be better. The figures make us think that the growth in value will continue.”

Vigneron reported that 29% of exports from the region go to the UK, making it the leading market. It previously competed at entry-level price points in UK retail, but it is now seeking to move into higher-price tiers by focusing more on quality.

“We are working hard on premiumising the Rhône,” said Vigneron. “We are investing in the vineyards and working on quality to be able to sell more expensive wines. This should allow people to make a living from their work and have a sustainable model.

“We have been losing volume, but that is coming at the lowest, entry-level price points. When you go up in value and quality it can be hard at first [to maintain volume]. It’s the first step, and now we are keeping the volume at higher price points. 

“We cannot provide a sustainable economic model for producers at the lowest price point. 

“If you want people to invest and be proud of what they do and work for the future, this premiumisation is a must. When you have a good level of quality, confidence and authenticity, people will be comfortable with spending a little bit more.

She added: “The UK has always been a very important market for us. We are supporting channels that are championing the more premium wines. 

“Sometimes people can be stuck with the old ideas, and we are doing tastings and campaigns to change opinions. We are a traditional wine region, but we are not stuck in the past and stuffy.”

Inter Rhône, which covers the entire Rhône region apart from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, has high hopes for its whites and rosés in the UK. 

Vigneron said: “We have a very long history of making white wine and it’s time to develop that. It used to be 6% of our production and it’s now 10%, so it has increased over the past three years. We have some historic and iconic whites. It’s now about making others better known. We are seeing some interesting growth figures of whites from the Rhône. The region has been focusing on white for some years.”

Rosé accounts for a further 16% of the region’s production.

“The demand for rosé is growing,” said Vigneron. “Provence and some other regions won’t be able to supply the whole world. Rosé has its place in the Rhône and the best strategy is to have our own style.”