Hungary sits well outside the UK trade’s top 10 countries of origin and has not had much love in years. But that could all change now Off-Piste Wines has teamed up with Binderer, a Hungarian producer owned by German firm St Ursula.
“It has all the efficiency, organisation and production of a German company, with two wineries in Hungary producing fantastic wines,” Off-Piste owner Paul Letheren told OLN. “The issue is how to sell them and the eastern European ranges in most retailers haven’t been touched in a long time because nothing has happened. But the New World has come back to Europe and it’s genuinely exciting. I genuinely see a big opportunity for eastern European wines, for Hungarian wines.”
He said other people have tried and failed in the past to revive Hungary’s fortunes, but believes what sets Off-Piste apart is his team. Rachel Archer, who created the successful I Heart brand at Copestick Murray, is in charge of brand development, and former Sainsbury’s and Tesco winemaker Clem Yates MW sources the juice and oversees the blends.
“Other people have talked about it but haven’t had Rachel’s expertise in packaging and coming up with something appealing to consumers, and Clem’s experience in blending,” said Letheren.
He believes Off-Piste’s Most Wanted brand – which is similar to I Heart in that it focuses on grape variety and quality instead of region or appellation – is a perfect vehicle for Binderer’s wines.
“You want ideas that work for brands and own-label,” he said. “If you can go to a retailer and say you have a category approach to eastern Europe it helps. You need to do something yourself – the blending and the branding – to add value, to add the Off-Piste approach to it.
“Most Wanted can work for Albariño or Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, as long as the wine is the best example you can get for that price. It’s all about quality first.”
Yates said she has been “banging on about Hungary for ages” and has now managed to convince her team that the quality is exceptional.
She added: “People see Most Wanted and they don’t need to know Hungary. Let’s drive the grape variety as a brand. In the wine trade people are too focused on appellations and regions and origin. It’s about price and quality and if you satisfy both of those it works.
“With Most Wanted we can do different grape varieties and still have that dominant brand.
You are free to play around with different areas and different countries. We focus on brands and quality.”