Portuguese DO wine imports to the UK grew 33.7% in value throughout 2018, driven by a 34% increase in volume sales.

ViniPortugal – the trade body for Portuguese wine – also attributed the growth to ongoing education projects with sommeliers and independent retailers, which it has been investing in since 2008.

Marketing director, Sonia Vieira, told DRN: “I think it was really important that we decided to do this back in 2008, and now we are just really starting to see the results of this work. We have more than 250 grape varieties in Portugal and our expertise is in doing blends, so it is essential that sommeliers and retailers can give consumers advice about Portuguese wines as it isn’t easy. We will continue to invest in these channels.”

The growth in Portuguese imports comes from the still wine sector, although Port is still an important category for the country.

Within still wines, Vieira said that over the past five years white wine sales have grown particularly well in the UK, although the bulk of imports from Portugal are still red wines.

She said: “The UK consumer is interested in other varieties. They want to know more than just Touriga Nacional. We have seen an increase in popularity of a number of varieties, such as Arinto, which is very well balanced and with good acidity. These wines match well with a number of things.

“I believe it is easier for the consumer to look for regions that they recognise but for the long-term we will continue to invest a lot in education and training to highlight the differences and the qualities of our grape varieties. We are definitely now seeing the results of that project coming through.

“Consumers want to surprise their friends and share experiences and they are increasingly curious about these native grape varieties. Portugal has all of these treasures and so now it is about creating and sharing the experience around these varieties.”

Vieira said that ViniPortugal plans to invest the same amount in the UK as it did last year but for 2019 there will be more of a focus on consumer events.

She said: “We will do more consumer festivals and partnerships, and not just our own events. For our annual Wines of Portugal tasting in the UK we ran a consumer event at the end of the day for the third year running. At this event for 2019 we focused more on producers that already have a presence in the UK, as we want consumers to be able to find the wines they try at the tasting.

“We will also have a presence at the London Wine Fair in the Unearthed Wines section, and at that event we will be bringing over 34 producers who aren’t currently in the UK, and who are seeking distributors. Alongside that we can focus on masterclasses.

“And over the next few years we will be spending more on consumer events in general.”