As the global situation around the COVID-19 pandemic continues to change daily, it has created a lot of uncertainty among U.S. exporters. This uncertainty has translated to a significant number of leading wine, food and beverage trade shows and events such as ProWein being canceled or postponed by event organizers. It is likely these changes will continue until the curve flattens.
The U.K. is one market that has held strong growth potential for U.S. wines, with a recent USDA report mentioning that U.S. wine importers can find the greatest number of opportunities with high-end independent stores and the less price-conscious foodservice sector. However, the U.K. has now entered a Brexit transition period until at least Dec. 31, 2020. While existing trade and other arrangements under the country’s EU membership will remain unchanged during this time period, it is likely that the U.K. will prioritize EU negotiations during the transition.
It is times like this where free trade agreements (FTAs) and bilateral agreements can help provide stability in trade. In terms of market access, it is important to note that there have been positive developments for the U.S. wine industry recently. Japan’s gradual phasing out of U.S. wine tariffs resulting from the U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement (USJTA), which went into effect on Jan. 1, 2020, is a positive win for Oregon wineries. This FTA will enable U.S. wineries to remain competitive with Old World wines that are imported into the market tariff-free under the existing EU-Japan FTA.
While times are uncertain, Oregon wineries are resilient and will persevere during this unusual period.
RECAP OF RECENT ACTIVITIES
Japanese Harvest Tour
In late July and early August 2019, OWB hosted a group of eight top Japanese wine trade for our biannual Harvest Tour. The attendees were from all sectors of the trade—retailers, importers, sommeliers and media—and were selected because of their proven support of both Oregon and Washington wines.
The tour started in Washington and transitioned to Oregon through a joint lunch in the Columbia Gorge, during which three wineries from each state showed off our shared AVAs. The group then traveled to the Willamette Valley for visits with seven wineries over two days. Our intention was to take the group to Southern Oregon the next day but unfortunately because of road closures and air quality from the Milepost 97 fire we were unable to do so. Overall the group was very engaged and enjoyed their time in Oregon learning more about our regions and wines. They will certainly carry this knowledge to share with others in their home markets in Japan.
USA Master Class, London
In November 2019, OWB hosted a master class event in London along with Washington State Wines, California Wines and New York Wines. This was funded by a joint Global Broad-based Initiatives grant and kicked off our international event programming for 2020. The class was titled “Sea to Shining Sea,” and included three master classes hosted by Master of Wine Victoria Stephens-Clarkson.
Class topics were Journey Through the Regions, Uncovering Value and Sustainability, and included wines from all four regions for each topic. Twenty-five hand selected trade attended and will also be included in an upcoming inbound tour (see details below). The day ended with a self-pour of all of the seminar wines, which allowed for more questions and interactions by the representatives from the regions.
Governor’s Trade Mission to South Korea and Japan
OWB director and chair of the international marketing committee, Bob Morus from Phelps Creek Vineyards, and Marie Chambers, OWB vice president of operations and finance, were invited to join the Governor’s trade mission to South Korea and Japan in November 2019 as representatives of Oregon’s wine and agriculture sectors.
The latest publication from the Oregon Department of Agriculture ranks wine grapes seventh in Oregon’s agriculture commodities. Concurrently, Japan and Korea are two important international markets for Oregon wine exports, with Japan being our second largest export market behind Canada.
Many Oregon wineries have had strong relationships with Japanese importers for more than 15 years, and these long term partnerships are very important in building global recognition and appreciation for our wines and industry. Through the trade mission, we learned that Oregon has very long and strong trade relationships with both Japan and South Korea, and there is continued interest in developing additional business investment and tourism on both sides of the Pacific.
For wine trade specifically, the first phase of the U.S.-Japan trade agreement went into effect at the beginning of 2020, which lowered tariffs for many U.S. agriculture products to the same level as those in the CPTPP (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) agreement. For wine in particular, the previous tariff of 15% will be decreased to 0% over a 5-year period, helping bring the price of our wines more in line with competing regions.
On this trip, we participated in the many state-sponsored activities, such as embassy country briefings and events focused on the Governor’s efforts to promote and support women in leadership. We also had the opportunity to meet with wine importers and educators to introduce a new Northwest Wine Certification program that was scheduled to launch in both markets in February. The interest and reception from experts in each market was very positive, and it also allowed us to collect valuable feedback to help shape the curriculum for optimal engagement and market effectiveness.
Mexico City Tasting
On Jan. 29, the OWB hosted its inaugural Mexico City tasting. Seventeen Oregon wineries from the Columbia Gorge, Southern Oregon and the Willamette Valley made the trip to pour their wines for almost 200 trade members. Prior to the main tasting we hosted a VIP tasting for those looking for representation as well as a seminar led—in Spanish no less—by Hallie Whyte of Soter Vineyards and David Adelsheim of Adelsheim Vineyard. The seminar space was full to capacity and there were many people standing, indicating strong interest in learning about our regions. That enthusiasm was matched by trade at the tasting, who were thrilled that wineries from all over Oregon had come to their market. The participating wineries were also enthusiastic about the turnout and strong response in this potential target market for our international efforts.
Northwest Wine Certification Program, Japan and Korea
OWB partnered with the Washington State Wine Commission to build out the first educational program of its kind for wines of the Northwest. The curriculum includes two levels of certification and is designed to be integrated into existing trade and consumer wine education programs. Level One was introduced in February through a two-day course conducted by OWB Education Manager Bree Stock MW in Tokyo and Seoul.
Seventy-eight wine educator, trade and media students were successfully trained and certified as Northwest Wine Specialists. Bree and Christina DeArment, OWB’s manager of trade education and relations, are currently working on the development of the Level Two curriculum. We will be looking closely at Tokyo and Seoul, as well as other Asian markets, to drive this deeper level of knowledge of and appreciation for our wine region. We will also be working with wine educators to successfully embed our education program into their existing curricula.
ProWein and Europe
In March, OWB was prepared to make our annual trip to ProWein, the world’s largest wine trade show held annually in Düsseldorf, Germany, with surrounding events in Europe. Sixteen Oregon wineries were planning to participate and by all indications this was going to be one of our best ProWein experiences yet when we were notified of the event’s cancellation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We were all very disappointed with this news but understood the decision. We look forward to returning in 2021.
We had also planned a trade tasting in collaboration with the U.S. Embassy in Moscow for which seven wineries were going to attend while another seven had submitted wines through their agents. This would have been our first-ever event in Russia and the enthusiasm was high, but once again due to COVID-19 we decided to cancel.
Two master classes had also been planned in Stockholm, Sweden, following ProWein for 100 trade members. The master classes were to be hosted by Bree Stock MW and Stockholm local Madeleine Stenwreth MW. Once again we thought it best to postpone for the safety of all involved. We still intend to host the class this year and will keep you updated on the new date.
Canadian Trade Tastings
The OWB is excited to return to Toronto to continue our successful tastings there and to expand our programming to Montreal and Calgary. This year we will also be joined by Washington State Wines to grow the scale of our events. We have created the Northwest Wine Expedition, where in each city there will be a trade tasting followed by a tasting with highly qualified consumers. Both states are collaborating with local food producers as well to create a truly Northwest feel. The events were scheduled for April and May but have been rescheduled: Oct. 19 in Montreal, Oct. 21 in Toronto and Nov. 2 in Calgary.
LCBO Consumer Tasting
The LCBO, in collaboration with OWB and Washington State Wines, will be hosting a consumer tasting in Toronto on Oct. 22. The participating wineries will be able to sell directly to consumers at this event so it is a good opportunity to promote Oregon wines to the consumer base there. The participating wineries will be selected by the LCBO and the event planning will be directed by them as well. We are playing a supporting role and are helping to offset some of the costs of this event.
U.K. Sommelier Inbound Tour
OWB plans to host our portion of an inbound tour with on-premise trade from the U.K. This tour was originally scheduled for early June but has now been postponed to an undetermined date. This programming is funded through a GBI grant and was developed with all of the major winemaking regions in the U.S. The group will start in Washington, then visit Oregon and will finish in California, with separate programming for New York. This funding has been used for similar activities for sommelier groups from Canada and Denmark. It has proven to be a great way to promote not only Oregon wines but also U.S. wines, and to show the USDA how well U.S. wine regions can collaborate.
International Summer Tour and Oregon Pinot Camp
OWB had planned to host our annual international summer tour in June. We invited key trade, nominated by the industry, from nine markets to travel to Oregon for a tour of the state prior to attending Oregon Pinot Camp. We had planned to start the tour in Southern Oregon before heading north to the Willamette Valley. Unfortunately, our plans for 2020 have been canceled, but we will be shifting them to 2021.
Call for Success Stories
OWB’s funding for all of our international activities comes from various grants from the USDA. One of the items we must provide to the USDA to ensure our continued funding is success stories from our events including our inbound and in-market activities. If you have participated in an OWB event and through this participation have directly increased sales or secured representation in a market, please let OWB know. All it requires is to fill out a short form, and we assure you the information is only shared with the necessary parties. If you have questions or a success story to share, please contact Margaret Bray.
Annual International Committee Meeting
The International Committee will meet April 16 from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. via Zoom. During this meeting we discuss an outline for the upcoming fiscal year’s events and schedule, recap the past year and review our grant funding. It is open for all to attend but requires you to register and fill out a brief survey before. We would like to have as much input as possible so please register here.