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Vinho Verde Looks To Premiumize

August 11, 2017

Vinho Verde has a reputation for crisp, easy-drinking wines that are also easy on the wallet. But in recent years, producers in this Portuguese wine region have worked to move the category upscale. As a result of those efforts, exports of Vinho Verde in the U.S. are rising not just by volume, but by value as well.

From 2014 to 2016, Vinho Verde exports to the U.S. grew 37% by value to $13.7 million—making the U.S. the category’s top export market. During that two-year period, U.S. volume rose by 15% to nearly 600,000 cases. The region’s trade organization Comissão de Viticultura da Região Vinhos Verdes (CVRVV) believes the premiumization effect can largely be attributed to one factor: single-varietal wines.

While Portugal is known for its blends—with its 250-plus local grape varieties—Vinho Verde producers are now intent on increasing the notoriety of single varietals like Alvarinho and Loureiro. “Single varietals will definitely be the gateway to restaurants, more so than blends,” says Céline Oliveira, export manager for producer Vinhos Norte.

“We’re planting new vines, and we also have a new generation of producers that are focused on raising quality,” notes Carla Cunha, marketing director at CVRVV. Around 400 to 500 hectares (1,000–1,200 acres) of new vineyards are being planted in the Vinho Verde region each year, with an emphasis on creating more premium offerings.

In the off-premise, industry players see continued consumer exploration of Vinho Verde. Aveleda SA, for example, has a carved out gains with its Casal Garcia brand, which is among the top-selling Portuguese wines in the U.S. And Sogrape subsidiary Evaton will be relaunching its Gazela label with new packaging and positioning before the end of the year.

“We’re repositioning Gazela,” says Evaton managing director Luis Gandara. “We’re trying to move away from lower-priced wines to a more medium spot, where we can grow in volume and grow in value as well.” Gandara is aiming for Gazela to reach about 100,000 cases in the U.S. for 2017.—Julia Higgins

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