Wine is characterised by extremes. As the trend-setting English wine journalist Andrew Jefford once wrote, “Due in no small part to its ancientness and cultural prestige, wine is at the very pinnacle of the agrarian pyramid.” There is no more sublime agricultural product than wine.
On the other hand, wine has now become a commodity. Even in a country that produces no (or barely any) wine, such as the Netherlands, it has ended up as a ‘must-have’ item on the shopping list. Drinking wine with a meal every day has become a totally normal experience. Research reveals that 74% of all Dutch people over 18 years of age drink wine now and again. On average, 1 to 2 glasses on each occasion. And around 90% of all wine drunk at home is bought from a supermarket.
However, making that difference come alive is becoming more and more of a challenge for wine purchasers. Years ago, it was enough for supermarkets just to offer a choice between red, white and rosé, but today’s wine drinker demands to see at least a selection of Chardonnays, Sauvignon Blancs, Cabernet Sauvignons, Merlots and Shirazes on the shelves. And now that wine has become such a normal part of daily life,
This marvellous yet everyday drink also has roots all over the world. At first, wines mainly came from France, and to a lesser extent from Italy and Spain, but now these traditional countries of origin have had to make room for new arrivals. These days, South Africa is the second most important wine producer after France. And Chili is in third place. Some larger supermarket chains offer a selection of eight hundred different sorts of wine. Wine is a product that allows you to differentiate yourself from your competitors.
The number of wine lovers who want to try a different taste once in a while is growing. These are people who sometimes get a bit tired of Merlot. Who say no to a glass of ordinary Chardonnay. Or who don’t want an unmemorable Cabernet.
As far as this is concerned, there are certainly parallels with the coffee market and the beer market. At first, coffee drinkers were entirely satisfied with a conventional coffee. The biggest source of excitement was whether any milk and/or sugar would be added. Today, coffee drinkers can choose from lots of different brands, types, and preparation methods. An extreme makeover has also taken place on the beer shelves, which used to be the sole preserve of Heineken, Amstel and Grolsch. These days, the shelves are overflowing with specialist beers, some of which may come from local micro-breweries. What’s noticeable is that this fondness for beer has caused the amount of wine we now consume to go down, although the quality has gone up. We’re also going for more unusual wines, and often choosing better ones. Increasingly often, wine drinkers are broadening their horizons to try out different grapes from other regions or other countries.
A Rabobank (Dutch bank) report shows that Dutch consumers have been spending more on each bottle of wine they buy. This pattern is supported by figures by IWSR (International Wine and Spirits Research), which show that sales of wines priced above €8.00 rose by 16.5% between 2011 and 2016. Now, we’re talking about the higher segment here, whereas the bottles that pass through the supermarket checkout rarely cost more than €5.00. Even so, the average amount spent is rising. Despite the increase in the number of wines advertised – a factor that generally pushes prices down – figures from Nielsen show an increase of 2%. Outside the Netherlands, the same tendencies are visible too. For instance, I came across another example in a report about the Wine Industry Financial Symposium that was held in Napa, California, recently. The report explored the rise in sales of higherpriced wines to Millennials. These young people are proving to be a thirsty target group.