Nuno Vale, marketing director for Wines of Portugal, told OLN: “It is consumers in their 20s and 30s driving growth in sales of Portuguese wines and we are seeing strong growth in the two key channels for us: independent retailers and restaurants.
“We realised that the good thing about Portuguese wines is also the challenging thing, which is that some of our wines are difficult to explain. So our strategy continues to be that we are targeting independents and restaurants where the sale is more of a hand-sell, and where they understand the diversity of Portuguese wine, and they have time to teach their staff.
“The growth is coming specifically from these value-added wines, so the regional specialities and DOP wines; these are the ones that are better aligned to those channels.
“Younger wine drinkers are looking for authenticity, plus they want to learn and they are prepared to trade up. Added to this is the fact that tourism is booming in Portugal at the moment, specifically in cities like Lisbon and Oporto, so consumers specifically want to try Portuguese grapes like Touriga Nacional.”
Vale said this year the Wines of Portugal tasting event in London had been opened up to consumers, following the trade tasting event.
He explained: “We wanted to give consumers the opportunity to try wines they might not be able to try otherwise, and to experience the diversity of our wines. We sold all 250 tickets and most of these consumers are aged around 30 years-old.”
Lucia Barbarosa of Quinta de Soalheiro, said the company has seen strong interest for its Alvarinho wines.
“We only work with this grape and we can now produce different styles of wine from different parts of our vineyard; the wines are different from the Albarino wines from Spain because often Spanish wines with this grape undergo Malolactic fermentation but ours don’t so they maintain the aromatics of the grape.”
Sarah Abbott MW, a consultant for Wines of Tejo, told OLN that in her view, tapping into the UK consumer’s interest in aromatic wines, such as Alvarinho, is one of the big opportunity for Portugal.
“Portugal has some great indigenous grapes and many of these are doing well now in the UK, but winemakers are also seeing success when blending them with international varieties, as this is a good way to introduce people to a new region.
“Tejo is a relatively unknown region in an under-estimated country but we have got importers for Tejo wines now and we have secured some more UK listings.
“To some extent we are riding on the coat tails of Vinho Verde, which has helped raise the profile of Portuguese whites. Wines of Portugal is also building on this reputation so there are lots of opportunities for white wines, as well as the reds.”
Antonio Costa, wine business development manager at Portugalia Wines (UK) told OLN: “Portugalia represents some wine co-operatives and it used to concentrate on just the Portuguese market but I joined in 2014 to help expand distribution out to other markets. So now we have managed to get some listings with specialised wine shops, mostly within the M25 region, and particularly some small supermarket chains.
"Simply Fresh in Bethnal Green, for example, started with four of our wines and they now have ten. Usually retailers need to hand-sell our wines but this is harder in a convenience store, so it’s great that sales have been good at Simply Fresh. It’s mainly the wines from Vinho Verde and the Douro that are selling but we are now planning to do a wine tasting event in the store to help promote some of the other wines. It all comes down to education but we love challenges.”