We drink better and better wines

English2021. feb. 13.Dániel Kovács

It’s a well-known fact that the Hungarian customer is price sensitive; but how do we decide when it comes to wine? While plastic-bottled drinks on bottom shelves used to be in great demand in the past, now we have started to move from quantity to quality, and similarly to our choices in food, our decisions about wines are getting more and more conscious. We asked chain stores about the state of wine consumption in Hungary and the effects of the coronavirus.

Hungarian customers are in a lucky position, as there aren’t many countries that offer, relative to their size, such a wide range of wines as Hungary. Despite this fact, price sensitivity rather than the demand for good quality was the main consideration for most customers for a long time.

A couple of years ago, however, a global shift towards high-end products started, which is well indicated by the fact that retail chains no longer care only about price, they more and more look for better quality; and the turnover of wine in plastic bottles has decreased, while that of better quality wine has increased.

Wine connoisseurs generally agree that products available for 600-700 forints are not worth looking at, while for 700-900 forints you can already find drinkable wines, and you don't have to dig much deeper into your pocket either to taste award-winning, hand-harvested and selected wines that are good to drink.

At Christmas we pick more expensive wines

As far as ALDI's experience is concerned, the majority of customers buy wines in the price range of 800-1000 forints which are good value for money. In recent years, there has been a shift towards more quality beverages, with consumers increasingly choosing higher quality wines.

The assortment of ALDI VINOTÉKA covers a wide range of quality products from excellent Hungarian wine regions, which are available to customers at affordable prices.

In the wide assortment, everyone can easily find the right wine either from a specific wine region or grape variety, we were told by Aldi, and they added that Hungarian wines, which make up more than ninety percent of their assortment, are in high demand.

ALDI’s data show that buyers prefer higher-quality wines for the holidays, but are also happy to take premium category drinks off the shelves on other occasions. They have the opportunity to do so, as the wine line-up in the stores is refreshed several times a year, and during the holidays, apart from the novelties of the season and new trends, the stores also have special items to offer to customers.

For Bortársaság, which runs specialist wine stores as well as a webshop, November and December are also the most commercially important period.

They do not have so called bottom-shelf wines; their assortment starts at 1,450 forints, which is the lowest price they have, but customers mostly choose from a price range between 2500-5000 forints.

All this was confirmed by the representative market research of the National Council of Mountain Villages (HNT) in 2017, which showed that the festive season at Christmas and the New Year is also the high season in wine consumption; and when buying wine as a gift, customers always prefer more expensive, higher quality products.

Poor quality sweet wine is no longer in demand

In the middle of the epidemic, we can’t draw any conclusions about prevailing trends on the basis of the turnover. In general, reductive white and rosé wines sell the best. Due to the lack of tourism, however, the turnover only reflects the taste of domestic buyers, while shopping habits are strongly influenced by the epidemic. Many people are now doing their shopping in a concentrated way, and the online turnover has been increasing steadily.

The joy of shopping has been replaced by fast shopping, which is not very good for wines, according to Árpád Vincze, chief wine expert of CBA, who emphasizes that there is no such a thing as average customer except in the minds of statisticians.

Everyone has their own taste and financial resources and makes their choices about wine accordingly.

The reputation of a given wine and the strength of the brand are decisive. Furthermore, some of the trendy types, such as Irsai Olivér almost work as a brand, independently of the winery, and the names of well-known and popular wineries are also a guarantee for success.

Wine is a product of trust and this must not be forgotten. Good quality/price ratio is important, but in the current situation the imaginary value associated to a given wine and producer in the minds of customers is also crucial.

Wine culture, and ‘wine snobbery’ that many people think is the same as wine culture also influence the turnover, the wine expert explains, admitting that diversity, which is the real value of domestic wines, is not reflected in the turnover.

The demand for unpretentious, low quality sweet wines has visibly decreased, but the switch in demand for premium quality wines, which the whole industry has been waiting for, has not taken place.

Unfortunately, public culture is characterized by superficiality or general unpretentiousness, so typical of our time. Books are replaced by online content of questionable quality, which results in superficial and insufficient knowledge.

As we grow older, we drink more and more wine

The research conducted by the National Council of Mountain Villages also showed that as we get older, our wine consumption increases, and so does the average price of the wines we buy. Typically, people in their early 40s buy the most expensive wines, while those between 50-65 consume the most.

Young people drink relatively little wine; if they do, they mostly opt for rosé or red wine with cola. HNT's research also found that they do not typically indulge in quality wines and their knowledge about wine in general is rather limited.

Therefore, they launched an educational campaign under the name ‘GOOD WINE’, which specifically targets young people and novice wine consumers and uses new types of content to draw their attention to the consumption of high quality Hungarian wine.

In addition, many of the Hungarian wineries have already undergone a generation change, so we can expect young winemakers to easily find a common language with people of the same age.