Photo: These Heitlinger labels show the new style of German labels
The lagging sales of German wine are long overdue for a
rebound in the British Columbia
And that is not just because the Liquor Distribution Branch
has just completed a month-long special promotion. The exposure will help,
although there is more that the LDB could do.
In the 12 months ended March 31, 2014, sales of German wine
in this market totaled an anaemic $7,082,000, down six per cent in the year.
The long-term trend has been grim. In the year ended March
1986, German wine sales totaled $13.6 million.
It would be hard to find any other major wine producing
nation that lost market share here almost steadily over a quarter century.
To be sure, much has changed in the wine market in British Columbia
took major market share.
The British Columbia
wine industry was effectively reborn in 1990 and today has VQA sales of $204
million a year.
There has not been much reason to go looking for German
wines. As a result, consumers are missing some outstanding wines.
Here is a case in point from a recent tasting. A terrific
Baden winery, Weingut Heitlinger, has listed a Pinot Blanc in British Columbia. It sells for $17.99 and I
scored it at 90. There are about 900 bottles in various stores.
What is it competing with? Lake Breeze Pinot Blanc 2012 at
$19 is sometimes considered the benchmark Okanagan Pinot Blanc. Hester Creek
Pinot Blanc 2013, at $16.95, is also in the same league. The Heitlinger wine,
as good as it may be, is in tough.
The leading German white varietal is Riesling. Good
popularly-priced examples in this market include Lingenfelder Riesling
($18.99), St. Urbans-Hof Old Vines Riesling ($22.99), Tesch Riesling Unplugged
($19.99), Balthasar Ress Riesling ($18.99), Dr. Loosen Riesling ($18.99), Dr.
Pauly Bergweiler Riesling ($18.99), Fritz Gunderloch Riesling ($17.99) and
Selbach Riesling ($17.95).
As it happens, there are a number of competing Rieslings
from British Columbia,
including Intrigue, Quails’ Gate and Red Rooster at $17 each, Nk’Mip Cellars at
$18 and Tantalus at $23. We have caught up with what Germany has done well for
So why would one expect German wine sales to show some life,
First of all, there has been an absolute revolution in
German wine labels. The baroque and confusing labels of former times now are
largely replaced by crisp, clean and readable labels. The legally required
hieroglyphics are still there, but on the back label.
That struck me forcibly at a recent tasting; when I looked
around the room, I saw almost none of the fusty old labelling.
The reason the Heitlinger Pinot Blanc could do well here
(aside from its good quality) is its colourful label, which is simple and which
stands out across the room. All the Heitlinger wines have front labels with a
cluster of four H’s stacked against each other. No other clutter.
There is a simple, modern label on the Selbach Riesling: an
image of a fish with the winery name above and the varietal below. It gets the
message across effectively.
Secondly, those who are selling German wine in this market
have begun to focus on how well the wines pair with Asian food. Is there a
better match than sushi and a crisply dry Riesling?
During the wine promotion, the Germans hosted a trade
tasting and luncheon, pairing wines with dishes from two of Vancouver’s best Asian street food vendors, Vij’s Railway
Express and Roaming Dragon. Every pairing worked, including Riesling with
Korean bulgogi (a beef brisket dish). St. Urbans-Hof Ockfen Bockstein Riesling Kabinett
($29.99) was a particularly good companion.
If the representatives of German wines get more of their
wines before consumers in Asian restaurants, that should pay off in future
The Germans need to get out the news that they also have red
lost a lot of market share to the so-called French paradox phenomenon – that
red wines are better for your heart health. Twenty-five years ago, Germans sold
only white wines in this market. Red wine sales soared globally after 1992 and
Even today, only $192,000 worth of German reds sold in this
market in the 12 months ended March 31.
grows excellent Pinot Noir. Two are listed here: Peter & Peter Pinot Noir
($19.99) and Schloss Reinhartshausen Pinot Noir ($23.99). The LDB needs to list
a few more, including the good one offered by Heitlinger. That winery’s chances
of succeeding in this market would be much better if it had several listings,
not just one.
It is also my view that the LDB really needs to overhaul its
German wine listings. The current list is replete with old brands that are too ordinary
to create any excitement.
was the last time a bottle of Blue Nun stirred your soul? To be sure, it must
do it for a lot of consumers because the LDB currently has 2,100 bottles in its
system. It would be hard to find a Chinese restaurant without it on its wine
list. One can only dream that the list might also include Weingut Tesch 2013
Riesling Trocken Unplugged ($20). Currently,
the LDB has 287 bottles available.
That is not to say the LDB list is devoid of excitement. Weingut Dr.
Bassermann – Jordan Jesuitengarten Riesling GG 2012 ($84.50) is one of the
greatest German wines in its system. You need to hurry: there are only 16