DEMYSTIFYING ROMANIA’S NET WINE IMPORTING HABIT
Despite holding 5th place in the EU and 11th in the world in terms of vineyard surface, 6th place in production of wine in the EU and 13th globally, Romania has barely any wine exports and, moreover the country is a net wine importer. Except for 2009, Romania’s trade balance of wine has been constantly negative for over a decade. Data shows that wine imports volume is double compared to exports. But what is the cause of this discrepancy? Of 182.6 thousand ha of vineyards surface in Romania, half is planted with interspecific varieties by farmers practicing subsistence agriculture. After land restitution, instead of replanting the vineyards with noble grapes, families kept the low-quality hybrid grape varieties inherited from the centralized communist era. Statistics show a 20% increase in interspecific vines from 1989 to 1997. Despite excessive EU funding for restructuring Romania’s vineyards and efforts from wineries to replant the vine surfaces with pure bred Vitis Vinifera and certain allowed crosses, Romania’s vineyard surface is still half covered with hybrids prohibited by EU commercialization for reasons of quality. As such, hybrids need to be located outside of the Romanian viticultural areas and only used for personal consumption or ornamental purposes. This restriction facilitates the renewal of vine plantations in Romania, but on the other hand takes away from local wine supply. Hence, the need for increased wine imports by a nation with per capita yearly wine consumption of 30 liters.
With a wine trade deficit of imports doubling exports, Romania’s primary import partners are Italy and The Republic of Moldova, followed by France, Spain, and Germany. But the newest trend of foreign wines on the Romanian market is wine coming from Argentina, Chile, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand, sold at lower prices than Romanian wines. With a supply cost per bottle of wine higher in Romania than in other wine producing countries, Romania is at a competitive disadvantage in the world market for wine. created, more like an export management company, that would provide export assistance to producers. Although Romania’s integration into the EU would have hypothetically increased Romanian wine exports to other EU countries, Romania is lagging behind wine producing countries with lesser wine production, still struggling with wine export market entries. As such, with 20% of Romania’s total exports, Germany holds the first place for Romanian wine export destinations, followed by the UK with 16.8%. Moreover, the rest of the wine exports are distributed between other EU countries and the US. Romanian wine exports to the US equal to 4.61% of total exports, once again this export percentage being scattered across multiple US states. This small wine quantity dispersal across the globe is attributed to the lack of a country brand and the export success is the sole result of individual wineries’ management. There is a need for a distinct positioning of Romanian wines in the minds of international consumers. Such an attempt at country branding was done by the Wine Exporters’ and Producers’ Association of Romania (APEV) through the nominal identification of Romanian wines as ‘Wines of Romania’. However, for successful country branding, this nominal identification should be accompanied by a graphic and symbolic representation of what distinguishes Romanian wines from all the rest in the world. Emphasis should be given to quality and origin of wine, focus that would change foreign consumers’ perception of Romanian wine as being of low quality, characteristic inherited from the Soviet era. There is a need for a private enterprise to be. This body would help wineries assess their export readiness and expose them to developing an export business plan for a profitable export venture. Moreover, it would communicate with foreign markets how to find distribution channels abroad and analyze their sales force, and help wineries with pricing in the international marketplace. Most importantly, this body would perform international marketing campaigns for the Romanian wine country brand with focus on PDO-PGI wine production, which is quintessential for Romania’s capability to build an international reputation within the global wine network.
As such, although Romania’s ranking within the vitiviniculture world market is great, in reality Romania has yet to further develop its wine sector to actually benefit from its vast vineyard surface area. One strategy would be to keep uprooting more hybrid varieties and replace them with noble grapes.