Science - February 7, 2008

Dutch wine has mostly curiosity value

Thanks to new mildew-resistant and cold-tolerant grape varieties, organic wine growing in the Netherlands is on the increase. The increase in supply means that wine producers have to think carefully about their marketing. Applied Plant Research and the Marketing and Consumer Behaviour Group did a survey of 220 wine buyers.

Harvesting grapes at the Wageningse Berg Vineyard.
The quality of Dutch wine is not bad: on a scale of one to five, consumers gave it an average score of 3.4. According to market researcher Dr Frans Verhees, however, the taste needs to improve if winegrowers are to tap new markets. ‘At international wine tasting events, Dutch wines can win silver medals. They haven’t reached the gold level yet, but it’s not impossible to conceive of.’

Only two percent of Dutch consumers go for wine from their own country when buying. For French wines, the percentage is ten times as high. Verhees: ‘The majority of wine consumers indicate that they have little interest in Dutch wines. Even so this group buys one percent of their wine from their own country, usually as a present, when the price is less important. Dutch wine easily costs ten euros a bottle, and for that amount you can buy better foreign wine in the supermarket.’

The survey results show that the Dutch winegrowers know their clients well. They are often local people and are interested in details such as the grape variety and the vintage. It is perhaps time to seek new clients further afield, but it will take more effort to convince them to buy. ‘True wine connoisseurs who have a cellar regard taste as more important than origin or the way the wine is produced,’ says Verhees.

Courses, wine tasting and introducing a quality label could help stimulate the production of quality Dutch wines, the researcher thinks. ‘Trying to compete with real wine producing countries is probably not such a good idea. You have to be realistic: production costs are relatively high here. Dutch wine is a niche market and that won’t change.’

The market research on organic Dutch wine was carried out at the request of winegrowers in Groesbeek and the Wijnbouwcentrum. It was financed by the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Nature Quality.

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