Italian Wines Lead the Way in Sweden

We’ve spoken plenty of times before about how the Italian wine industry continues its expansion into other territories.

Every country that opens itself up to the falls in love with the wines that the Italians create. And it’s easy to see why, with such quality, combined with an illustrious history, there’s no getting away from the fact that Italian wines are among the best in the world.

We see this every year as we get sales figures back from places like the United Kingdom and the United States. Recent expansions into Asian territories, such as China and India, have also started to bear fruit as Italian wines become more popular in those regions.

But those aren’t the regions we’re going to focus on today.

What you may not know is that Italian wine is just as popular in some other European countries where you might not expect it to be.

Sweden is one of them. 

Here, we’re going to take a closer look at why the Swedes love Italian wine and what the industry can do to keep that love affair going.

The Top Supplier

For several years now, Italy has battled it out with a number of other contenders to become the top supplier of wine to Sweden.

In 2018, the Italian wine industry finally manage to pull ahead by a decent margin in that battle. Prior to this period, South Africa was its biggest challenger.

According to Per & Britt Karlsson, who run the first online wine store ever opened in Sweden, Italy is the country of choice for Sweden’s growing population of wine lovers.

Amarone is the Key

We all know that Amarone is one of the best and most popular Italian wines. A gorgeously smooth red, it’s often used as a way to introduce people to more complex examples of Italian wine.

But as a standalone product, it has plenty of merits too.

The Swedish people clearly think so as well. According to the Karlssons, it’s Amarone in particular that agrees with Swedish tastebuds. The wine is the biggest seller in the country. Plus, there are several clones, developed both in Sweden and abroad, that the Swedes substitute the wine with if they can’t get their hands on the real thing.

Therein lies the first major lesson for the Italian wine industry. It’s clear that there’s a favourite already in place when it comes to the country’s wine.

That’s something for the industry to capitalise on.

Amarone producers who haven’t placed Sweden in their target market now have a new territory that they can expand into. We imagine that there are plenty of producers with domestic roots, in particular, who’ll be able to take advantage of this Amarone love themselves.

But it’s also clear that Amarone isn’t the only wine that could appeal to Swedish tastes. The Karlssons point out that clones of the wine do pretty well in the country too. That leaves the door open for Italian producers who create wines using the same grapes to potentially get a foothold. They don’t have to clone Amarone to do it either. Clever marketing could allow them to make it clear that they use the same grapes or that their wines have similar qualities. 

And that could lead to the Swedish people broadening their own horizons when it comes to their wine preferences.

Understanding the Swedish Market

Beyond the populace’s preferences, Sweden also has an interesting market structure that the Italian wine industry has adapted to.

The Karlssons say that there’s a near-monopoly in place named Systembolaget. This monopoly has specific requirements of the wines that they purchase for consumption in Sweden. One is that they prefer to buy in bulk, with another being that suppliers must be able to provide wines to a custom-designed specification.

Both of these are requirements that the Italian wine industry is fully capable of adapting too. In fact, it’s that ability that has largely led to Italy’s dominance in the region when compared to less developed wine industries.

Still, it’s crucial that there’s a good understanding of how this system works moving forward. As long as the Italian wine industry is able to cater to the specific demands of the Systembolaget, there’s no reason why it can’t continue its expansion into Sweden.

Some Advice for Italian Wine Merchants

The industry as a whole may make more concerted efforts to spread its influence in Sweden over time.

However, there are plenty of things that individual producers can do to get a foothold in Sweden. The Karlssons offer the following advice.

Work With a Good Importer

This is critical if you hope to understand the complexities of the Swedish market. It’s not the same as Italy and a good importer will be able to help you to navigate the differences. Plus, they can provide specific advice on what Swedish buyers expect. For example, they may be able to help with labelling concerns. Plus, they can provide more information about Systembolaget.

In some cases, a good importer may even be able to help a wine producer to bypass Systembolaget. Legislation created in the early 2010s makes this possible. You may be able to strike up a relationship with an independent distributor, as long as you have the right help.

Learn How to Create Tenders

The Systembolaget uses a tendering system when determining who can sell certain products in Sweden. This is key for an Italian wine producers. You will essentially have to show that your wines meet the Systembolaget’s requirements if you hope to sell through them.

The ability to create tenders is what’s going to separate the successful producers from those who don’t get into the country. Any producers reading this should research the procedure.

And Finally…

Beyond their love of Amarone, Swedish people seem to display a general fondness for fruity red wines.

This is where the other opportunities we mentioned earlier lie.

If the industry is to continue its dominance, offering wines that suit these very particular tastes is likely going to be the key.