Text by Jiang LU (Maxime LU)
Romanian wine hasn’t achieved great market exposure in China. Most wine professionals and consumers are not aware of this wine region. Therefore, it might come as a surprise to many people if I say that China has become Romania’s largest export market in 2012, and in 2013 and 2014 respectively the second and the third largest export market. And in 2014, China was Romania’s second largest market for wine export in terms of export values. As a strong wine production region, Romania’s limited marketing activities for its wine products in China were mainly organized by wine producers instead of by regional industry or official organizations.
Now let’s first take a look at some general information of this relatively unfamiliar wine production region.
As a European Union member state, Romania is situated in southeastern Central Europe, where the River Danube makes its way to the Black Sea. Romania has one of the oldest wine making traditions in the world, its viticulture dating back to more than 4,000 years ago. Legend has it that the God of Wine Dionysus used to live in Romania. Romania lies in the same latitude as other world-renowned wine regions such as Bordeaux, Burgundy and Piemonte.
A great number of international or local grape varieties are cultivated here:
International grape varieties include Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon.
Local variesties include Feteasca Neagra, Babeasca, Mustoasa de Maderat, Negru de Dragasani, Feteasca Regala, Feteasca Alba, Galbena de Odobesti, Zghihara de Husi、Tamaioasa Romaneasca and Busuioaca de Bohotin.
In 2014, Romania produced 61% white wine and 39% red wine. 28% of the wine holds DOC and IGR labels, while 72% of them are table wines.
Romania became a member of the International Organization of Vine and Wine (OIV) in 1928, and hosted the 36th World Congress of Vine and Wine in June 2013.
Romania has the fifth largest wine growing areas in the EU. Its grape production ranks the fifth while its overall wine production is the sixth largest in the EU, following Italy, France, Spain, Portugal and Germany.
Globally, Romania is among the top 15 wine regions in terms of grape growing area and wine production.
Currently, over one million Romanians are working in the viticulture and wine related industries. Over 5% of its arable land has been used for viticulture. Its viticulture accounts for more than 14% of its fruit vegetable output. The market value of the Romanian wine industry is between 350 million to 450 million euros.
It’s clear that Romania is one of the oldest and strongest wine producing countries in Europe. The “low-profile” of Romanian wines in China is largely due to its special wine market and previous marketing strategies.
Romania’s wine production is mainly targeted for domestic consumption. A large deficit persists in its wine exports as a result of its low export volumes. In 2014, Romania produced around 384 million liters of wine, while its domestic consumption reached 408 million liters, creating a great gap of demand. Therefore, it imported about 34 million liters of wine and exported only 10.4 million liters, or 19.4 million euro export and 36.1 million euro import, leaving a deficit of 16.7 million euro.
Besides its domestic market orientation, Romania only came back to the western European market in the 1990s due to political and historical reasons. Its focus, therefore, has been on exploring the western European market instead of the faraway Chinese market. As a result, promotional activities for Romanian wines in China have been quite limited. Companies offering Romanian wines in China can be seen only in trade fairs from time to time. Online search for major Romanian wine importers leads to only a handful of results. This indicates that, regardless of the fact that China has become one of the main export markets to Romania, Chinese wine dealers are still offering Romanian wines as a complimentary product or simply use it to expand their product portfolio.
As the Chinese wine market started to take off in the past decade, a great number of Chinese businesspeople and capitals in connection with Romania have come to focus on Romanian wines with outstanding cost performance. Though in absence of promotional activities in China, Romanian wine still achieved great market performance in China due to its unique advantages. A total of 1.18 million liters, or 1.57 million bottles of Romanian wine has been exported to Mainland China in 2014. This equals to 2.8 million euro of export value, or 17% of its total exports. Chinese importers of Romanian wines mainly come from Zhejiang and Guangdong provinces, with several exporters from Wenzhou, Ningbo and Shenzhen gaining in scale.
In recent years, an increasing number of Romanian wine producers have started to pay attention to the huge Chinese market potential. In an effort to avoid the risk of focusing on the single European market, those wine producers have become rather active in trade fair participation in China for market promotion. APEV ROMANIA has allocated certain budget for organizing group participation in influential wine trade fairs in China such as this year’s ProWine China in November (2015), where you will find a special section on Romanian wines.
As the development goes further, more and more Chinese consumers will be able to enjoy the high quality and rich variety of Romanian wines in the near future.
– LU Jiang, WineSchool China –