Denmark is not traditionally a wine producing country, mainly because of sub-optimal climate conditions. However, this changed in the early 1990 with hobby growers starting to produce wine since which was further facilitated with the August 2000 revision of the EU Wine Regulation that made commercial wine production legal in Denmark. Since then, the Danish wine (or vin) industry increased rapidly, especially with climate change that led to warmer summers, milder winters, and shorter frosty periods in spring. Danish vineyards are widespread in the country but are predominantly close to the coastline and on the islands. According to the New York Times, in 2019, Denmark boasted 90 commercial vineyards up from just 2 in 2014. In 2021, IBISWorld estimated industry revenues from wine production in Denmark at around 1 million USD compared to 16.5 billion USD in France.
Denmark remained one the smallest wine producers in Europe.
According to the International Organization of Vine and Wine (OIV), Denmark was the 26th largest wine consumer in 2018, consuming around 150 million liters equivalent to a global consumption share of 0.6%. In terms of per capita consumption, Danish people consumed an average of 4.25 liters of pure alcohol from wine in 2019, ranking as the 8th country.
In 2020, Denmark ranked as the 18th largest wine exporter with a global share of 0.53%. Its wine exports grew at a slightly higher CAGR of 6.4% compared to the world average of 4.9% between 2001 and 2020.
Most of Denmark’s wine is imported from Europe, the United States, South America, Oceania, and South Africa, but the country also imports a small amount from Asian countries. The Danish market is huge, open, and dynamic. Denmark holds the record of the highest number of wine importers per inhabitant, due to the large number of small, part-time importers who import wines from all over the world. Denmark is the 13th largest wine importer worldwide with wine imports amounting to 770 million USD in 2020. Danish wine imports underwent a sharp increase between 2001 and 2008, almost doubling in value. Since 2009, wine imports oscillated reaching the highest value in the last two decades in 2020. Danish wine imports from Lebanon varied considerably from one year to the other, with imports peaking in 2005, 2010 and 2015 at 104, 41 and 64 thousand USD respectively. The highest value of wine exported from Lebanon to Denmark was recorded in 2020 at 125 thousand USD with Lebanon ranking as the 36th largest wine exporter into Denmark. In that year, Lebanese wine constituted 0.02% of all the Danish wine imports. In terms of quantity, Lebanon ranked as the 29th largest wine supplier to Denmark with 29 tons of wine exported to Denmark.
In 2020, more than 70% of Denmark’s wine was imported from the European Union. Almost half of the Danish wine imports were supplied by France (26%) and Italy (22%). Other large EU exporters included Spain (7%), Germany (7%) and Portugal (3%). Another 5% was imported from 21 other EU countries. The United States of America was the largest non-EU wine exporter to Denmark with a share of 7%, followed by Chile (5%), UK (4%), Australia (4%), South Africa (3%), Switzerland (2%), Argentina (2%) and New Zealand (1%). Other supplying countries accounted for 0.6% of total Danish wine imports.
In 2020, the world average imported unit price was $3.95/liter. The average unit value of imports from Italy, Germany, Portugal, Sweden, New Zealand, and Austria exceeded the world average. The unit value of imports from USA, Spain, Chile, and Argentina were lower than the world average. While the unit value of wine imports from Australia, South Africa and Finland were less than half the world average, those from France, Netherlands, Belgium, and Poland were more than double. The unit price of Danish wine imports from Lebanon was $4.31/liter, only slightly higher than the world average one.
Changes in the Danish Market
The Danish wine market flourished due to a series of factors mainly, a world-class restaurant scene, and a high per capita income of Danes. Additionally, Denmark is characterized by a ‘free market’ for alcoholic beverages while the markets of its Northern European neighbors are monopolistically controlled by the government. This allows foreign producers to work with hundreds of highly specialized wine importers.
Red wines continue to dominate demand, with apparent attraction, in the recent years, towards niche red varietals such as Gamay or Grenache. However, it appears the Danish taste is changing. With recent summers being particularly long and hot, Danish consumers are starting to gravitate towards lighter, refreshing styles of wine, particularly rosé, white, and sparkling wines. Gastronomical influences are also greatly contributing to this shift as Danish wine drinkers report that food and wine matching has become significantly more important as a driver of wine choice. Moreover, as Danes are becoming increasingly concerned with health and well-being, lighter wines are providing the ability to moderate alcohol consumption while still enjoying wine. Danes appear to prefer sweet wine over dry wine. Additionally, Copenhagen ranks top of the list of places to drink natural wine, or wine such as was produced in the good old days, before wine producers started adding or removing things during winemaking to create a consistent, commercial product each time.
Another interesting trend on the sparkling wine market is linked with the alternative packaging. There are many companies which are exploring unconventional ways of packaging, including cans and single-serving bottles. Those types are more practical in the summer, as they can be used in outdoor places and events, where glass bottles typically cannot, and are convenient to carry.
Wine consumers appear to be taking a trading-up approach to the wine category, evidenced by a decrease in per capita consumption alongside an increase in both per bottle spend and a corresponding uplift in the value of the category. More specifically, as the price per bottle has steadily increased, along with the high tax on alcohol, Danes have become increasingly willing to spend more in the off trade on a bottle of wine for most drinking occasions than they have done over the past few years.
Looking at the general wine ecosystem, large supermarkets dominate the distribution, and sales by HORECA are solid. However, in the last few years, sales on emerging online wine stores significantly increased.
Small wine exporters who are not able to export large quantities can focus on the large number of small importers in Denmark. They will have to emphasize their uniqueness to distinguish themselves among the wide variety of wines available, such as by supplying sustainably produced wine, which is increasingly popular among Danish consumers.
Figure 1: Wine Consumption (1995 - 2019)
Figure 2: Value of Wine Imports into Denmark, 2001 – 2020
Figure 3: Percentage share of wine Exporters to Denmark in 2020