Italian article covers Russian market situation

While this article on the Russian wine market is mostly a rewrite of the IWSR data by Noemi Mengo and, perhaps, is giving a distorted outlook (clearly because the author is not inside the situation), it’s important to lose the fear towards coming to work to Russia and understand the importance of strategic presence on this market for the Italian Consorzi and wine brands.

What Noemi Mengo is right about for sure is the deep connection of Russian wine drinkers with Italian wines. As I mentioned in my recent articles in Meininger’s, Italian wines are feeling very different trends in the current Russian market: on the one hand, the interest towards top wines, especially from Tuscany and Piedmont, is falling due to gloomy economic situation in the country, on the other hand, Italian wines are unbeatable in their image and appeal to the general Russian taste, they are connected to us almost on the DNA level. Still, right now the angle is taken towards better-priced lesser-known wines giving much opportunities to more unknown wine regions.

In other words, with the crisis people are learning to find better wines for less money. They experiment more, they want to learn. Overall the wine culture is not decreasing for sure — although information and media in Russian language remains scarce.

In terms of crisis situation it’s quite correct what Mengo is writing: «Non è proprio un territorio esente da controversie quello russo: la crisi legata al calo del prezzo del petrolio, la conseguente svalutazione monetaria, le tensioni geopolitiche e l’impatto di queste sull’economia locale, le forti sanzioni da parte di un governo appesantito da burocrazie ed una buona dose di corruzione, rendono le possibilità di entrare in questo mercato un po’ spinose. Guardando al settore vinicolo, oltre alle difficoltà sopraelencate, bisogna fare i conti con una cospicua produzione locale, che si fa sentire e pesa con la concorrenza dei vini importati, che devono quindi guadagnarsi spazio al meglio«. 

The importance and the influence of wine produced in Russia is also correct. Just a small part of so-called «Russian wine» is actually coming from the Russian grapes, most wine is bulk-imported from the EU. Mostly it’s not a concern for quality Italian wine producers since those «Russian» wines fall into the cheapest categories.

There’s also a curious comment about the virtual non-existence of «quality» wines here: «Mercato particolare, quello russo, anche dal punto di vista della spesa media per il vino: secondo le statistiche la quasi totalità dei vini acquistati rientra nella fascia di prezzo più bassa o in quella standard. Pochissimo spazio ai vini “premium” e quasi inesistente, anche se con previsione di crescita futura, i vini ad alto rapporto qualità/prezzo della categoria “super premium +”.

On the one hand, it’s true when looking at Russian population at large. Only a handful of people, mostly living in Moscow, Saint Petersburg and other big cities, can actually afford to buy wines at €15 and more, most people of course do not have the money nor the knowledge about «fine wines», which, taking into account the government’s efforts to treat wines as «bad alcohol» dangerous to people’s health (position of course populistic and having nothing to do with reality), is quite understandable. Wine importers have to bear many risks, the major one being connected with the national currency exchange rate, but also those connected with tough alcohol control regulations, that put all the distribution industry under a lot of pressure.

Still, the place for quality wines do exist. This is why countries like Portugal and Germany see increasing average bottle price sold in Russia, even if the gross volume is falling.

You can read the full article here

You can also read my article in Meininger’s WBI

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