Ioana Bidian • Miercuri, 28.06.2023
In May, Allied Market Research published a report analyzing the size of the global luxury wine and spirits market.
According to their report, “The global luxury wine and spirits market was valued at $229.4 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach $414.8 billion by 2031, growing at a CAGR of 6.2 % between 2022 and 2031. The luxury wine and spirits market consists of alcoholic beverages with alcohol by volume (ABV) between 3 and 40%. The drinks currently on the market are wines and distilled spirits, which are usually of good quality and at premium prices. These products are generally consumed on occasions like marriages, parties, social gatherings, and other celebrations. They cannot be consumed by consumers under the age of 17 in most countries due to government regulations. However, it is gaining popularity among middle-aged consumers, who are between 35 and 55 years old. The global luxury wine and spirits industry is driven by increasing interest in premium and unique products.”
According to IndustryARC,” the wine industry categorized by retail price looked like this: Value ($4–$10) Popular, ($10–$15) Premium, ($15–$20) Super Premium, ($20–$30) Ultra Premium ($30– $50) deluxe, ($50–$100) super deluxe, ($100–$200) and icon ($200 or more). However, these categories lack proper context. Marketing a product in the luxury price segment is not the same as producing a luxury wine.”
Beyond price, what is the definition of luxury wine?
Wine, as a product, has always been associated with refinement and elegance, but in addition to this, there is also this special category positioned at an extraordinary, luxury level. In the wine market, this category of luxury wines was built on different premises in the New World of wine compared to the Old World.
Terroir and Tradition in the Old World.
The Old World includes famous wine regions: Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Tuscany, Rioja, and many others. These regions have been growing grapes and producing wine for centuries, passing down winemaking traditions from generation to generation. Old World winemakers focus on identity and the concept of terroir, the belief that a wine should reflect the specific characteristics of geographic location, soil, relief, climate, and traditions, each of which influences the wine's character. This focus on terroir often results in wines that exhibit elegance, subtlety, and a sense of place. Luxury Old World wines are frequently based on the grape varieties best adapted to a given terroir, often even local varieties, and follow strict regulations to maintain the integrity of regional traditions and identity.
Innovation and Expression in the New World.
In contrast, the New World comprises regions such as California, Australia, South Africa, Chile, and New Zealand, which have emerged as exciting players in the world of luxury wine. New World winemakers take a more innovative and experimental approach, unencumbered by centuries-old traditions. They use modern techniques, cutting-edge technology, and global grape varieties, allowing more freedom and creativity in winemaking. This focus on innovation results in wines that are often fruity, full-bodied, and expressive, showcasing the winemaker's unique style and personality. Luxury New World wines often aim to grab attention and create a bold impression in the tasting.
Starting from these premises, we can answer the question: Does Romania have wines that can be classified as luxury wines?
Romania between terroir and innovation!
I wrote in a previous article that our country is positioned between the two worlds, and this positioning is felt even more at the level of luxury wines
One of the defining differences lies in our approach to terroir but also to innovation.
While the Old World focuses on the concept of terroir as a guiding principle, the New World explores a wider spectrum of possibilities. In Romania, even if we have defined wine-growing regions, vineyards, and wine-growing centers, even wine-growing plains, which we could describe as well-defined terroirs, we have not followed the old recommendations for planting varieties, so we have varieties that do not lend themselves to certain plantations and which fail to reach the natural potential of the variety, so the possibility of including wines from these varieties in the luxury category is excluded from the start. Of course, some varieties are planted in the right place, but what would be examples of good practices that would lead to the classification of luxury wines?
On the other hand, we could compare ourselves to New World luxury wines that approach a more innovative mindset, experiencing different site grape varieties and pushing the boundaries of winemaking techniques to create distinct and innovative expressions. But here too we have a deficit, even if we have state-of-the-art technology, thanks to European funds, we focus too much on volume and too little on experimentation. There are few explorers in the wine market in Romania, most likely because there is financial pressure that causes them to choose volume over some collection wines.
Refined winemaking techniques.
Creating luxury wines requires knowledge and mastery of winemaking techniques. From hand-harvesting grapes to destemming and winemaking recipes, oenologists aim for perfection. Attention to detail at every stage, from fermentation and aging in carefully selected oak barrels to the final blending process. The Old World benefits from the expertise of oenologists, passed down through generations, which allows them to get the best every year from each grape variety, resulting in wines that are harmonious, balanced, and able to age. In Romania, we are in the first generation of wine cellar owners and we can say that also the first generation of oenologists, with a lack of know-how and more so with new plantations, established with various varieties, without a history of interaction between terroir, variety, and style of winemaking, which gives us more of an experimental character in winemaking.
The reputation of a winemaker could also influence a luxury positioning if the condition of wine quality and consistency in obtaining it were met. An example is Michel Rolland who built his reputation in Bordeaux and collaborates with hundreds of wineries in 13 countries and yet only some of them benefit from a luxury positioning.
Maturation and aging or the art of patience.
Luxury wines often possess extraordinary aging potential, turning into liquid jewels with time. They are created to be enjoyed not only now, but also in the future. The careful maturing and aging process in the wineries allows the wines to develop complex flavors and profiles. Some luxury wines, such as Grand Cru Bordeaux or Super Toscanele, can age for decades, gaining in complexity, elegance, and depth. Collectors and enthusiasts are proud to acquire them and patiently wait for the right moment to open a bottle. But this approach first requires the wine to go through various processes in the winery, which include aging in oak barrels, assembly or blending, bottling at the right time, aging and aging in bottles in the winery before being released for sale All this presupposes, on the part of the producer, an investment and blocking of significant sums in wine and barrels, moreover, it also presupposes a longer period of absence from the market, until the wine is ready to be sold.
Limited production and rarity.
The scarcity and exclusivity of luxury wines contribute to their allure. Many luxury wines are produced in limited quantities with meticulous attention paid to every aspect of their creation. Low yields, rigorous selection processes, and adherence to strict quality standards result in a small number of bottles. This limited supply, combined with high demand, increases the desirability and value of these wines. But limited editions must be supported financially, so most wineries in Romania approach a mix between limited editions and volume. But can we still talk about a luxury brand when it also produces volume and limited edition?
Prestige and status symbol.
Owning and consuming luxury wines is associated with prestige and social status, but producing, positioning, and promoting them is a whole process that requires time and investment.
The luxury of producing luxury wines is the possibility of letting the product speak for itself.
The problem is that it takes time to do this, and if you rush the process you might undermine the concept. Collectors, connoisseurs, and enthusiasts should taste the wine, appreciate it, and include it in their buying, drinking, and recommending preferences, but even so, it only gains prestige for a small audience. The transition from this public of connoisseurs and investors to the public consuming luxury, including luxury wines, can only be done by gaining awareness and desire to associate with the brand, a laborious process and a new investment, this time in brand marketing.
It is difficult to define what a luxury wine is, but what I can say is that: luxury wines must combine high price with extraordinary quality, but also with rarity, design, symbolism, and the ability to give the consumer a sense of privilege or nobility. Heritage, tradition, and reputation also fall under this definition. Luxury wines are not just drinks; they are symbols of achievement and refinement, representing a world where the pursuit of excellence knows no bounds.
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