Interview: Jürgen Schlanke
“Increasing amounts of wines that we sell are going to be organic” Germany:
Like other northern European markets, Germany is renowned for its environmental credentials. But do they translate into actual commitments by wine buyers? Weinmarkt Mattheis has a shop and wine bar in Tübingen, South of Stuttgart, along with a small distribution business selling to wine merchants across Germany. Its owner and managing director Jürgen Schlanke shares his views on organic and biodynamic wines in the German market.
How important are organic and biodynamic wines to your portfolio?
In total, we sell under 5 million bottles a year and don’t specialise in organic and biodynamic wines. They represent around 10% of our portfolio and come from all producer countries. We choose wines firstly on quality and price, and because they fit into our portfolio. If two wines are equally interesting and one is organic, we will choose the organic one. But we’re not looking to have a certain percentage of our range as organic.
How is the category currently trending in your market?
There is interest, but organic wines have not yet become a necessity. There is still a proportion of our customers who believe that the quality of organic wines is lower and that the flavour is not as good as for conventional wines. There are still misconceptions about quality definitely. Generally speaking, Germany is a very difficult market at the moment. It’s very price-sensitive, in fact I would say that at this point in time it’s more price than quality-sensitive. The number of customers asking for wine above 15 or 20 euros has increased, however. But on the other hand, it is not a market in its own right yet.
What advice would you give to exporters of organic and biodynamic wines to your market?
The advice is similar to what I would give to all suppliers. Organic is nice to have but it’s not an absolute driver right now for the German market, which is why the wines need to fit well into the segment they serve. That means that they should have the price, the look and the quality that the market expects. In terms of price, I always say that below 10 euros retail price I sell by the case, and above 10 euros I sell by the bottle. Organic and biodynamic wines do not really command a premium in terms of price. They are probably a little bit more expensive but not to such an extent that it would affect the purchasing behaviour of customers.
How do you see the future for this category in your market?
I think it’s going to grow. It’s going to grow naturally because there is a strong interest among producers to switch to organic. So increasing amounts of wines that we sell are going to be organic. In five years’ time, I would expect them to represent 20% of our portfolio.
The world’s largest market for organic still wine
According to its Organic Report released in 2019, the IWSR identifies Germany as the world’s largest market for organic still wine, growing strongly since 2012 at a CAGR of +17.9%. Organic wine accounted for 6% of still wine consumption in the country in 2017, with locally produced German wine representing approximately 52% of that volume. In 2018, there were 7,860 hectares of organic vineyards in Germany. The ISWR points out that in the German market organic wine is particularly purchased by women, consumers over age 50 and higher earners.