Natural wine may indeed be a niche – representing only about 2% of the world’s total production –but in Copenhagen it’s big and hip. Copenhagen is the third-biggest natural wine market in the world, after Paris and Tokyo, according to Solfinn Danielsen, the author of Naturvin, a book about natural wine and its pioneers. In 2014 he opened his own wine bar, Rødder & Vin, and is known as Copenhagen’s ambassador of Gamay. Other natural wine bars have since sprung up.
Adventurous young drinkers
Natural wine has also captured the hearts of many sommeliers, to the extent that some years ago people talked about a “war” between them. Sommeliers at Denmark’s most acclaimed restaurants, such Noma and Geranium, led the way at the beginning of the Millennium, and the trend spread from there. Today, natural wine is to be found on the menus of many small bistros and brasseries; many of these wines are priced attractively compared to their classical counterparts due to the Danish restaurant policy of multiplying the price by a factor of five or even seven or more. This means that adventurous diners, or connoisseurs, are rewarded when they go for a pétillant natural, a vin jaune or a biodynamic Beaujolais. The trend is also being driven by young consumers who are looking for something unique, whether it’s wines from lesser-known regions, unusual grape varieties, or orange or natural wines.
For young Danes, wine is as much part of their DNA as Instagram and Facebook. Wine is what you drink. While their parent’s generation made wine a weekend or even daily commodity, they have taken it to further heights, drinking wine not only at home but casually in wine bars, cafés and by the glass. As Jonas Tofterup points out: “The Danes are drinking 36 litres per head – in Spain they only drink half as much. You have in Denmark a new generation of wine drinkers doing it from their early 20s.” Tofterup, 33, has succeeded in doing what many with a Danish birth certificate have been unable to accomplish; as of February 22nd 2019 he is an MW. Based in Malaga in Spain, he will now return and put his stamp on wines offered to the Danes, because as of April 1st 2019 he is a consultant for Aldi Denmark. That means he will be responsible for choosing good, affordable wines – and may even create one of his own for Aldi’s shelves.
Jonas Tofterup MW, consultant
What is sold and where
Unlike in other Scandinavian countries, there is no government monopoly to regulate alcohol sales in Denmark. This means that wine can be bought everywhere: at the petrol station, the florist, the supermarket, the specialist store, from the newspaper’s wine club, via the Vivino app and numerous websites. Given its multiple outlets, Denmark could be said to be one of the world’s most diversified markets. More than one thousand small importers supply this country of 5.7m people with wine. Overall, 83% of wine is distributed by the big multiples through their supermarket chains with the on trade representing about 7% and online sales 10%.
According to figures from Danmarks Statistik, red wine dominates, with Danes choosing red 66% of the time in 2017. Red wine and rosé are combined in the statistics of the Wine and Spirits Organisation of Denmark (VSOD), but it’s reasonable to assume that rosé now has a market share of more than 10%. Sparkling and Champagne are also trendy and on an upward curve, with a 20% rise in bubble consumption since 2010. Port, on the other hand, went down 19% compared with 2016, and is now 45% lower than it was in 2010. While wine consumption is flat and has been so since the turn of the century, the average import price is on an upward trajectory, reaching DKr23 ($3.48) per litre in 2017 as opposed to DKr21.1 ($3.19) in 2016.
Coop Amba, which is Denmark’s largest retailer with a market share of close to 50%, told Meininger’s that it mostly sells full-bodied south Italian wines and it’s been like this for quite some time. Wine sales are positive and better than sales of other FMCG items in general, with sparkling and rosé sales growing.
What the wine merchants say
Steen Buhl Pedersen, wine coordinator at Dagrofa, Denmark’s third-biggest retailer, says it predominately sells high-alcohol red wine from the south of Italy, as well as Italian multiregional blends and Australian wine in priced DKr50-60.
Xavier D.F. Gras, who is sales director of Taster Wine’s HoReCa division Oskar Davidsen, and also the director of the national Skjold Burne wine chain, consisting of 36 stores, sees a clear trend towards appellation wine from France, Spain and Italy. He has seen a growing demand for Spanish wines in the past six months. Another trend is a turning away from opulent and ‘fat’ wines towards the more tannic and elegant. He also sees a willingness to pay more for quality and to try new and unknown names and districts, which could be a consequence of so many Danes travelling abroad and exploring the local wines they encounter.
Xavier D.F. Gras, sales director, Oskar Davidsen
Lasse Lindner, category manager for Rema 1000, the fourth-biggest retailer in Denmark, says that bag-in-box wines from Australia and bottled wines from the US are very popular; the consumer is willing to pay a little more and willing to challenge themselves.
Thorbjørn Klemensen, manager of wine and beverages at Løgismose Vin, says he’s seeing a huge interest in rosé and in wine from classical areas like Champagne, Burgundy, Rhône and Tuscany, along with some German wines.
Mikko Forsström, CCO at Lidl, says that white New World wines are in demand, particularly Chardonnay from Australia and South and North America. When it comes to red wines, Italy is big, with Primitivo especially popular. It’s also Lidl’s experience that the Danes are willing to pay more, and to try new things.
Mikko Forsström, CCO at Lidl
Jacob Jensen, director of product strategy and development at Philipson Wine, Denmark’s biggest online retailer, has built a list that includes: Côtes du Rhône and the Crus; Bordeaux under DKr100; white wines from Loire and Chablis; everything Burgundy; Riesling from the Mosel and Pfalz; wines from Piedmont and Tuscany; modern Spanish wines; Malbec and Pinot Noir from Argentina; cheap wine from Chile; and a range of mid-priced wines from California, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa priced up to DKr200.
Ib Bergkjær, CEO at Sigurd Müller Vinhandel, a big HoReCA distributor, says his company is experiencing a growing demand for red and white wines from Burgundy. It’s not just the famous names of Meursault and Puligny that are in demand, but also lesserknown appellations like Marsannay, Pernand Vergelesses and Saint Aubin. “Consumers have become very quality conscious and try to find opportunities in areas that have not yet taken to the sky financially,” says Bergkjær. “We have even seen the first signs of focus on Beaujolais and have experienced a resurgence [in demand] for the Loire.” He continues that for some years his customers have been interested in Germany, Austria and northern Italy. What they all have in common is “the desire for wines with elegance, acidity and freshness”. While people have been paying attention to Italy for many years, “I see the first weak signs of slowdown,” particularly when it comes to ripasso and Amarone. “Italy is a big country that certainly deserves attention, but there has been a tendency to focus” on too few regions, he says.
This article first appeared in Issue 2, 2019 of Meininger's Wine Business International