The new year is well and truly underway and this week we’ve been asking friends and contacts from the Spanish wine world to gaze into their crystal balls and share predictions for 2023. Whether producer, exporter, distributor or retailer, everyone has their own perspective on the challenges and opportunities ahead.
As you’d expect given what’s going on globally and, in the economy, there’s a fair bit of uncertainty around with many in the trade crossing their fingers and hoping that consumer confidence rides out the storm.
That said, wine people are optimistic folk and with all that experience dealing with spring frosts, summer drought and the like, winemakers especially are well used to uncertainty. So, it’s been cheering to hear that for some at least, 2023 has already got off to a positive start.
Isidro Fernández, owner and winemaker at Casar de Burbia, produces around 130,000 bottles of mainly Mencía and Godello based reds and whites in Bierzo in north-east Spain. For many years he has been exporting to around 10 or 11 markets around the world, but in recent years has focused more on the Spanish national market in an effort to build the brand and drive sales. That focus seems to have paid off, and he tells us that early new year sales have been as buoyant as they were in the run up to Christmas. He describes his mood as “expectante”, which probably translates best as “anxiously expectant” as he hopes that good start to 2023 continues.
Others are a little more cautious. Jens Riis, our US friend, Madrid resident and for many years Spanish wine buyer for big US importer, distributor and wholesaler Kermit Lynch saw creeping economic jitters in the second half of 2022 and a definite slowdown in the global wine trade. Part of that he puts down to greater caution from distributors and importers, with many cutting back on stock to avoid being caught short with too much inventory.
While Jens thinks things could be slow for a while to come, he is quick to highlight the positives here in Spain. Wines from Spain are improving with every vintage thanks to better tools, better training and, especially, better vineyard management. He also highlights a growing interest in all things green which he sees continuing throughout 2023. Consumers are increasingly interested in organic wines, more and more producers are committing to environmentally friendly practices in the vineyard and bodega, while the supply chain is waking up to sustainability with an increased focus on things like recycled packaging solutions or electric vehicle delivery fleets.
The green theme is picked up by Julian Alfonso from Vino y Compañia, one of our favourite bricks and mortar wine retailers in the centre of Madrid. Julian sees a growing interest in natural wines - which he puts down to perceived health benefits – and curiosity for things like orange wine or skin contact white wines. The shop stocks more than 3,500 wines - mainly from Spain but with a carefully chosen international list too – and has a steady list of regulars, us included.
Alongside the more traditional consumer who buys on price or sticks to familiar areas or producers, Julian flags the growing band of wine enthusiasts; aficionados who sniff out the new and the different and like nothing better than to discover new talent among Spain’s band of viticultores emergentes. All signs pointed to that group swelling its ranks in 2023.
The export manager
Finally, international markets are a key focus for Spain’s producers with about 50% of wine produced each year being exported to the rest of Europe or as far afield as the USA, Canada, China, Japan and Mexico.
Our friend Mercedes Castro has been selling Spanish wine around the world for yonks, and is currently Export Manager for a couple of top end wineries in Terra Alta in Catalunya and Castilla La Mancha. She’s seen sales of premium Spanish wines pick up significantly in mature European and Asian markets over the last few months and predicts that tendency will continue for wines from established Denominaciones de Origen like Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Priorat or Rías Baixas in Galicia.
Any new emerging markets which particularly catch Mercedes’ eye? Interestingly, she highlights South Korea where a growing interest in organic wine is driving a bit of a spurt, as well as individual provinces like Alberta in Canada.
So, there we have it. A quick round up of predictions for the Spanish wine sector in 2023. If you have any insights let us know – we’re always happy to hear what our audience thinks. In the meantime, cheers!