For this week’s profile on one of VINEX’s leading members we talk to
Mihai Chitic, export director,
of Jidvei about the wine market in Romania.
Tell us something about your business and your main revenue streams?
Jidvei srl Filiala Alba is the biggest wine producer in Romania at the moment. It is a family business going back three generations.
The company owns more than 2,700 hectares, of which the average age is 10 years old. Our vines are spread across the regions of Tarnave and the Transylvania Hills.
We produce around 20-22 million litres of wine a year across three wineries. Our yearly turnover in 2018 was €36m. Jidvei has a very strong local market selling more than 16m bottles domestically.
Exports represents less than 2m bottles.
In terms of value, the Romanian market accounts for 94% turnover and exports 6%.
Has that changed much in the last five years if so how and why?
Yes, because over that period we have started producing wine from more than 800 ha of new vineyards. This has helped to take our annual wine production up from 15m/l in 2014 to 22.3m/l last year.
During that time our turnover has also gone up from €28m five years ago to €36m in 2018.
A new winery with a capacity of 5m/l was built and started producing wine in 2015. We have invested over €8m in new equipment and machinery in that time as well.
What grape varieties are you mainly producing?
Feteasca Regala accounts for 700 ha, Sauvignon Blanc 600 ha, Muscat Ottonel 450 ha, Gewurztraminer 300 ha, Riesling Italico 90 ha, Rhein Riesling 70 ha, Pinot Gris 80 ha and Feteasca Alba 80 ha. We also have around 45 ha of Pinot Noir, Merlot, Feteasca Neagra and Cabernet Sauvignon that we use to produce rosé wine.
What was the harvest like in 2018?
We saw a lot of grapes ripen early, but it was a very clean harvest and we saw production levels 30% higher than average. So we were pleased with that and also the good quality we got from the grapes.
What impact have you seen on prices as a result?
Jidvei is more focused on the Romanian wine market and our prices are focused on that. But because of the higher production and larger harvest then overall the final price for the wine was 20-25% less than the 2017 harvest.
What are your main export markets and why?
The US, Spain, Italy, Germany, Japan, China, Poland, UK, Canada, Netherlands, Belgium and Australia would be our main export markets.
We are particularly strong where is a good Romanian community like in the US, Spain, Italy, and the UK. All together there are around 4m Romaninan people living in those countries.
Has that changed much in the last five years?
Yes, we have started to export to China and Japan.
Which export markets have been less competitive in 2019?
The Chinese market has decreased in demand over for the last year due to more availability of local wine there. Volumes were also down in the UK for the first six months of the year due to uncertainty about Brexit and what will happen to wines outside the EU.
What are the biggest challenges facing your business ?
Our biggest challenge is being able to open up new export markets when we produce 98% white wine. But we have consolidated our position as a major bulk wine exporter and we expect to be able to provide the market with over 5m/l in the next decade. We just need to work harder at promoting Jidvei as a reliable bulk wine supplier with high and consistent quality.
What are the biggest opportunities?
Romania still remains a big potential market for us, even though the average wine consumption compared to 10 years ago has decreased to 24 litres per head from 28 liters. We hope we can help rebuild those consumption levels and are in the best position to do so as we had 22% share of the Romanian market in 2018.
What demands are you getting from buyers? How would you describe the wines you make?
Jidvei produces wines in a cool climate, with continental conditions with a lot of rain in spring. Most of our vineyards are 250-500 meters altitude. These conditions affect the vineyards and we have to regularly spray, up to 16-17 times a year, to keep the vines healthy. So grape production costs go up as a result.
What are buyers looking for?
Bulk wine buyers are cost orientated and expect the price of bulk Romanian wine to be 30% or more lower than they are in Italy, which we consider to be our main competitor in this channel.
But what is not taken into account is the fact we are further away from the main bulk buying markets (Germany, UK, Netherlands, Belgium and the Czech Republic) and transport costs are higher.
We are looking to work directly with buyers on a multi-annual contract basis delivering same or higher quality wines at constant prices. Where we are particularly strong is with varieties such as Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer that are more difficult to find on the bulk market.
Jidvei is also able to produce cool climate Sauvignon Blanc that gives extremely fruity wines that are full of acidity and freshness that can’t be found elsewhere in Europe.
We are also hoping to build up exports of Feteasca Regala, which is a versatile variety for blends that is currently only really known in the German and Czech markets.
What do you expect to see in the market for the year ahead?
We expect to see more quality wines in the market overall. We feel we are in a good position to compete at reasonable prices, but with quality wine. But there is always this pressure from hypermarkets, because of the volume and money they can make, that the bulk market should be able to produce wine that is cheaper than water.
For more information, contact your VINEX Regional Manager here