The last time Julie Peterson came to Georgia was in 2019. After a two-year pause, she once again visited Georgia and spoke to us about the activities her company, Marq Wine Group, has planned with the National Wine Agency. She noted that the quality of Georgian wine is ever-rising, the diversity of varieties is admirable, and discussed the new styles of wines that Georgian producers are offering to the American consumer. She emphasized that wines Georgian winemakers are producing combining experimental approaches and traditional winemaking foster exceptional interest on the world market. In conversation with us, Julie Peterson praised the producers’ wines she visited during her stay in Georgia and again stressed the importance of advances in labeling.
How specific is the American market to wine? What type of wines do American consumers choose?
The US is the largest wine market in the world. Approximately 75% of the consumption is domestic production, and 25% is imported wine. Of the imported wine, the two largest countries selling wine in the US is Italy and France. However, other countries are gaining more and more market share as the American consumer continues to be more exploratory.
Every type of wine is consumed in the US. Historically Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay account for 40% of the market (approximately 20% each). However, over the last eight years, this percentage is changing as consumer preferences change, and American consumers become more exploratory. The number of varieties is expanding with market share growing for Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, Prosecco (as a type).
Your opinion on Georgian wines, in particular, according to these categories, which wineries would you choose: Amber wines, Saperavi, European style wines.
The US market is known as a mature wine market with over 90 million wine consumers. Consumers are more and more exploratory, which is excellent news for Georgian winemakers.
All of the categories listed above can be competitive in the market. Of course, amber wines made in qvevri are the wines that have put Georgia on the map in the US. It is one of the most powerful entry points for gaining the attention of the consumer because it is a wine style that is new and different. The US is the largest wine market in the world, but it is also the most competitive. No one is waiting for more wine to come into the market.
As a result, we have been able to open the market with qvevri wines and have also been able to introduce Georgian native grape varieties that are also extremely interesting. This includes Saperavi. We are at the beginning of the Saperavi story in the US. There is so much to be shared about this noble grape.
Which has more potential in the American market? What types of prospects can these wines have?
In this super-competitive market, we look for trends in the market and work to align with them to gain attention. For example, the hottest trends in the market are low intervention wines, skin contact wines, sparkling, rosé (which is a market we spent ten years building), low alcohol wines (6% to 11%), and light red and red wines with a soft tannic structure. As wineries are interested in the US, one successful growth strategy is to think about how their wines might align with these trending categories.
What about the pricing policy? What price segment does Georgian wine occupy in the American market? Where does Georgian wine stand now?
The market is large enough for ALL Georgian wines, provided the wines deliver a positive quality/price ratio. This means that for a wine to sell in the US, it must be competitive by over-delivering for its price. For example, if the price is $12.99, it must taste like a wine in the $15.00 to $20.00 category. Pricing is key for long-term, sustainable sales.
Could you tell us more about your and Marq Wine Group’s involvement in promoting Georgian wine in the American market? What could you say about the dynamics according to the data of recent years?
For the last 15 years, we have specialised in building sustained market growth in the US for wine regions across Europe. One of the success stories is the growth of exports from Provence, France to the US market. Over the ten years we worked with them to introduce and build the dry rosé category in the US, we grew the exports from 300,000 liters to over 20 million liters.
Although we have worked with 20+ other regions, Georgia stands out as the most similar to Provence, with tremendous long-term growth potential. Any category growing at 20% is considered “fast growth” by industry analysts. Georgia is growing at over 34% year over year for the last five years. And we are only at the beginning. Georgia has all the potential to capture a significant share of the market if the right levers continued to be pulled at the right time. This takes a long-term vision and consistent market investment. This kind of growth does not happen on its own. The market is far too competitive for that.
How does Marq Wine Group get involved, and who is the target of communications?
We develop and execute an integrated market development strategy with 8-10 different activity areas that are all interwoven. Working across all states, we have programs for all levels of the wine trade (importers, distributors, retailers, and restaurants/sommeliers) and media. We are now just beginning programming to the consumer segment, so there is much to do. There are, of course, different roles. Working as a partner of the National Wine Agency, our function is to create the category of Georgian wine. Each producer and their partner importer and distributor develops their brand while executing their market development plan.
What are some of the most famous restaurants, bars, or wine shops where Georgian wine is presented, and how is Georgian wine positioned?
The US currently is the export market that achieves the highest export price of Georgian wine. This is the result of the market positioning of Georgian wine in the US at the highest levels of the US in Michelin or other award-winning restaurants. Lazy Bear in San Francisco, Night & Market in Los Angeles, Racines in New York City, Maydan in Washington DC, etc.
What is the role of the National Wine Agency? Could you also tell us more about the events that are planned this year that help popularise Georgian wine?
We need to continue to broaden and deepen the market with our trade program. For example, introducing those wineries that are not yet in the market and building out the states that wineries have distribution in.
At the same time, we need to build consumer programs to pull the wine through the market through the support of importers and their partner retailers and restaurants. In addition, we need to participate in high-profile wine festivals in strategic markets. And, of course, support all of this with the backbone of what holds all of this together: communication through the media, traditional, and all digital platforms. We often see market development programs resembling a drowning man—much splashing without heading to shore. In other words, actively developing a market without securing market share.
We focus on the opposite. It may not be full of hype, but it creates real traction in the market. It is the systematic development process of pulling the right levers in the market and at the right time to ensure long-term, sustainable growth both in volume and value. For us, THIS is a success. For us, THIS is the time for Georgian wine in the global marketplace.
Can you tell us about the performance of Georgian wine and qvevri wine, in particular, on the US market?
We tell people that Georgian wine is the fastest growing wine category in US market. We do not own a large share, but what counts is the sustainable growth that Georgian wines have enjoyed over the past 6 years. Qvevri wines are definitely finding their place in the US market and demand for them continues to grow.
I think qvevri wines are established in this new category of skin contact wines. Today, there is a huge interest in skin contact wines, everyone winemaker on the planet is striving to make them. Right now, with the geographical indication status that qvevri has received, only Georgians will be able to use this term. This is very important. Georgia is becoming more and more present in the global wine market.
Where would you say Georgian wine is in the US market?
Georgian wine is still at the beginning. We have to continue building the Georgian wine category. Growth, generally, comes at the beginning stage. It is the most dynamic time of growth. We are working closely with the National Wine Agency to do the right things at the right time to position Georgian wine in the premium wine category. Right now, Georgian wine is in the fine wine category, which means it can be sold double the price in the US market.