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Portuguese Table Wines Move To Double-Digit Growth In U.S. Market

October 28, 2014

While table wines from Portugal have long been overshadowed in the U.S. market by Old World rivals like Italy, France and Spain, the category is now enjoying an uptick in interest. Last year, bottled table wine shipments from Portugal crossed the 1-million-case mark on 7% growth, according to Impact Databank. The pace quickened through the first half of 2014, with trade group Wines of Portugal reporting an overall 21% jump in exports to the U.S. to about 725,000 cases.

“Currently, the $10-$15 price range is the sweet spot, but we see the $15-$20 tier becoming increasingly important,” says Nuno Vale, marketing director for Wines of Portugal. He adds that a good price-quality reputation in the trade and a “discovery factor” on the consumer side are driving sales.

Much of the excitement around Portuguese table wine is emanating from the Douro region, renowned as the seat of the country’s Port business. “I’d distinguish the Douro from the rest of Portugal because I think it has the highest quality potential,” says Christian Seely, managing director of wine and Port house Quinta do Noval. “The Douro, which has been known for vintage Port, is now reinventing itself as a red wine producer as well. My vision is to establish it as one of the great Old World producers for dry red wines.”

Quinta do Noval produces about 200,000 bottles of dry red wine annually, along with about 700,000 bottles of Port. Its largest export markets are the U.S., Canada and Brazil. On the table wine side, its labels include the Quinta do Noval brand ($90 a bottle at retail) and Cedro do Noval ($20), which features classic Douro varieties blended with Syrah. “We’ll introduce our first white wine next year, Cedro White,” Seely notes. “I think we’ll see more whites from the Douro in the years to come.”

One Portuguese white that’s already made headway in the U.S. is the lower-alcohol Vinho Verde style, which has grown by 43% to 484,000 cases in the U.S. since 2009, according to the Commissão de Viticultura da Região Vinhos Verdes (CVRVV). Last year, Vinho Verde posted total exports up 5% to 2.16 million cases, with the U.S. category up 6%. Key brands include Sogrape’s Gazela, marketed by U.S. subsidiary Evaton Imports—which sells around 90,000 cases annually—and Aveleda’s Casal Garcia.

While the Douro remains Portugal’s standard-bearer, other regions are also gaining recognition. Esporão, based in the southern Alentejo area, continues to make steady progress in the U.S. through its importers Aidil Wines and Vinum Importing, especially with its Monte Velho label ($10). Last year, Esporão was at around 65,000 cases in the U.S., and this year it’s projecting a roughly 30% jump to 85,000 cases. Known for its Alentejo wines, Esporão has now also branched into the Douro, and its brand from that region, Assobio ($13), is helping to drive gains this year. “At this point it’s been proven that the Douro can make world-class wines beyond Port, and in some international markets like the U.S., it tends to lead the Portuguese message,” says Esporão CEO João Roquette. “We wanted to have a presence there, to show we can make interesting wines from the Douro, and also as a gateway to Alentejo and the rest of Portugal.”

 

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