Value up Almost a Third in First Eight Months of 2022 over Same Period Last Year
Evora, Portugal, October 26, 2022: U.S. wine imports from Portugal’s central-southern Alentejo region, with its traditional reliance on native grapes and strong sustainability credentials, registered an uptick of 12.7% in volume and 31.9% in value January through August 2022 vis-à-vis the same period in 2021. The latest numbers from Portugal’s National Institute of Statistics are in line with a longer-term trend, with three-year comparisons, 2020 through 2022, demonstrating volume growth of 11.5% and value up 26.6%.
Portugal’s Comissão Vitivinicola Regional Alentejana (CVRA), aka Wines of Alentejo, attributes the growth to U.S. buyers responding to Alentejo’s reliably consistent quality/value ratio and the diversity of grape varieties on offer. “We are already living climate change in Alentejo, but there is a silver lining,” says Francisco Mateus, President, Wines of Alentejo. “As producers refocus on local grapes better-suited to withstand heat and drought – Alicante Bouschet, Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional for the reds, plus whites Arinto and Verdelho to liven up Antão Vaz-based blends – these not-the-usual wines are finding an appreciative audience overseas.”
Alentejo’s wine industry is thriving. Acreage planted to vine accounted for 57,517 acres/23,277 ha in 2021, an increase of approximately 21% over the last 10 years. Around 42 producers exported 1,528,183 liters to the U.S., January through August 2022, with the average SRP at $11. Although Alentejo routinely racks up the hottest summertime temperatures in Southern Europe, around 20% of regional wine production is white. On store shelves and at dinner tables around the U.S., Alentejo whites are growing in visibility, currently representing 13% of total volume and 15% of value.
The international Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC), a visualization site for international trade data created by the Macro Connections group at MIT, notes that Portugal is the eighth largest source of imported wine in the U.S., with Alentejo accounting for around a third of that amount. Though still a relatively small player in the U.S., Alentejo has made a name for itself in the sustainability sphere: 50 percent of total vine acreage is farmed by members of Wines of Alentejo’s award-winning Sustainability Program (WASP). Launched in 2013, it includes the participation of all Alentejo’s principal players, and virtually all Alentejo wine producers exporting to the US.
The program is distinguished by its ground-up focus: 812 individuals have received one-on-one training or attended classes; a further 1,970 have attended workshops. Wineries who comply with 86% or more of 171 demanding WASP criteria at the most advanced level in the areas of viticulture, vinification, and social responsibility sport the WASP certification seal. Herdade dos Grous became the first to qualify in late 2021, now joined by Herdade de Coelheiros, Herdade dos Lagos, Casa Relvas, Casa Clara, Herdade da Malhadinha, Rocim, Adega Mayor, and João Portugal Ramos, plus two grape producers, Monte do Trevo and Joaquim Luis Araújo. More Alentejo wineries are expected to follow suit within the coming months.
Wines of Alentejo (Comissão Vitivinícola Regional Alentejana/CVRA): founded in 1989 as a private institution, dedicated to certifying, controlling, and protecting Alentejo’s wine industry and culture. CVRA is also responsible for promoting Alentejo wines domestically and in selected international markets. Funding comes from the certification process, which is proven by the certification seal placed on the back label of the Alentejo bottles and attests to the guarantee of origin and the quality standard of the wine.