In a highly competitive, saturated global wine market, what must wineries in the region of Valencia do in the future in order to maintain existing markets and establish new markets for their wines.
Historically wineries from Valencia, including Utiel-Requena, have sold their wines in bulk and large volumes of bottled wine at low prices. As sales in the traditional markets for Spanish wines, UK, Germany, Denmark and Sweden, have been either static or declining, new markets have opened, notably China, but the model has not changed.
The problem of a model is that success is based on being the cheapest. How can this be changed so that there is more emphasis on quality and growers are paid a decent price for their grapes?
The industry here is dominated by cooperatives where prices are fixed based on the demand for bulk wine. In the future, instead of paying a flat price for all grapes of a certain variety is to create a pyramid style classification system. A good example of this system of classifying grapes is in the Rhone Valley in France where a cooperative I know quite well created a system whereby the quality of the grapes from different plots are classified and the price paid depends on the quality and yield. Given the nature of cooperatives, where every grower is a member, this way of working can create conflict between neighbours due to different prices being paid. However, in the long term the quality improves, demand for better wines increases and the region develops a better reputation.
One of the world trends is towards making wines with less use of chemicals in the vineyards. Many of the vineyard areas in Valencia are very fortunate because they are ideal for sustainable, organic and biodynamic farming. This is a clear advantage for the future success of the region, as more consumers are looking for wines that less treatments.
For private wineries large and small, in order to compete with internationally, more investment is required in better wine education and improved language skills. From the person who picks up the phone to a commercial manager travelling the world, knowing about wine is critically important. Also, to be able to present the wines of Valencia in a confident manner, it is necessary to know about the competition from other countries.
In terms of grape varieties in recent years there has been a strong focus on the most widely planted local grape Bobal. While there are some world class wines made from this grape, this is the exception rather than the norm as it is not an easy grape with which to make premium quality wines. Two other varieties that I have been impressed by the wines of are Monastrell and Moscatel. Thirty years ago dry wines made from the Moscatel grape were very popular but went out of fashion, however, its time will come again. Likewise Monastrell was often too rustic for most consumer, however, nowadays several wineries are making better balanced, softer wines popular with consumers.
There are many reasons to be optimistic for the future as a new generation of young talented winemakers, many of whom have travelled and gained experience in other countries, are pushing the boundaries to make better wines that wine lovers around the world will enjoy.