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"Although production declined, the harvest is expected to be better quality"

Ricardo Migueláñez. Agricultural Engineer @rmiguelanez

Ricardo Migueláñez.- The grape harvest has begun. How would you describe this year's performance?

Gregorio Martín.- The grape harvest is different every year, as is the case with all fruit. The grapes must undergo a ripening process, and they just experienced a few days of very intense heat, which stopped the process, causing a delay. Right now, when there is a very notable difference in temperature between night and day, ripening may improve and we may end up with a very good quality grape.

R.M.- What is market situation currently and what are the sector trends in the medium and long term?

G.M.- The market is currently picking up, little by little. Following the slump due to the crisis during the last two years, when we have had notable production and, therefore, considerable surplus, prices have declined and exports have increased. However, they have increased to quite low prices, so now we're trying to get back on track, as this year we're expecting a slide production but an improvement in quality. At the moment, our wines are on the rise.

R.M.- What are DO La Mancha wineries and companies doing to enhance their competitiveness and enter new markets? What are you doing to help them?

G. M.- The wineries are working hard on their own in this regard. They are successfully gaining a foothold and creating a notable market structure, especially outside Spain. It's worth noting that we have very high production; we are the third-largest producer in the world, and our consumption is very low. We have no choice but to export. The wineries have gradually become convinced that this is necessary and, at the moment, some of them are investing heavily to establish themselves internationally and expand.

The regulatory council has played a fundamental role in this area. It has always spearheaded these activities, promoting our companies' wines and, as we are a Designation of Origin, it is always showcasing the wines we produce all around the world.

Using our resources, plus those from the common organization of the wine market, the DO La Mancha Regulatory Council is working tirelessly in non-EU and EU countries, and even within Spain, to promote and enhance the prestige of our wines.

R.M.- Exports account for what percentage of total revenues from DO La Mancha companies?

G. M.- Exports are very important, and account for 60-65% of the total, and even more for some companies.

R.M.- Are bottled wine exports growing?

G. M.- They absolutely are. This was a clear objective that arose because the DO wanted to monitor its bulk wines—to certify them as they are certified in our wineries. In La Mancha, the number of bulk wines has declined; however, we're seeing growth of more than 10-12% each year in bottled wines.

R.M.- What are the main international markets for La Mancha wines?

G.M.-The European Union continues to be the largest market for our product. Then comes China and the rest of Asia, as well as the US, which is becoming an increasingly important market. It's a promising and interesting market to be conquered in the short or long term. But first comes China, Hong Kong, and then the US.

R.M.- You've been in the sector, a leader on the DO La Mancha scene, for more than a decade. What kind of progress have you seen over the years?

G.M.- It has been a very interesting ride, and I have enjoyed it very much because I've seen it as vineyard-owner and wine-producer. It has experienced growth, not only in quality—because we've always offered good quality—but also in prestige and exports, as the wineries have fought to achieve that level of quality.

The ten years that I've been with the DO have been very gratifying for me personally. At the same time, I have to mention my extraordinary team, which is dedicated to achieving the DO's objectives, which are very clear: to promote and present our wines in markets all the world over.

R.M.- What issue has yet to be addressed by the industry in Spain?

G.M.- The sector has to address many issues: it has to strengthen its foothold abroad, further improving the prestige of our wines, and align that fame with quality so as to achieve improved profitability and higher appreciation of our products overall outside Spain.

The main industry-wide issue that needs to be addressed is to increase wine consumption in Spain. Domestic consumption is worrying; the entire sector should be worried, including the Public Administration. As I said earlier, we are the third-largest producer in the world and our consumption numbers are derisory. Indubitably, this needs to be remedied. We've done something wrong, or we're doing something wrong. Accordingly, we much change out trends, the way in which we explain to people the importance of wine in our society, from a cultural and, in particular, economic standpoint. People must realize the importance of tasting wine, of enjoying it, and that's something the Regulatory Council is doing very well. This is a fundamental issue of consumption in Spain.

Another area to focus on is strengthening all of the activities being organized outside Spain. We must continue to grow abroad, to improve quality and, most importantly, to achieve our objective: to increase consumption of, and to believe more in, our wines in Spain.

R.M.- As regards the sector at national level, what are your expectations for the Interprofessional Agri-Food Organization?

G.M.- Not only do we expect the rule to be extended, but we also expect measures to be taken in sector policies in the short and medium term, for unified efforts to be made for the sector, for all industry players to be considered, and for the industry to be able to develop, both economically and socially, in a way that is both fair and serious. In short, we expect more than just an extension of the rule. The Organization is more than that. It must establish strategies and policies to continue to pave the way in global markets so as to compete with other producer countries.

I also expect it to be capable of establishing industry policies which are serious and fair for all parties.

R.M.- What portion of the annual budget is used for promotional purposes, and how is aid from the European Fund used?

G.M.- We have two important focuses: one is quality control, which we do by complying with a set of specifications that extend from the farm all the way to the winery. This is a very important task for the DO, which is implemented through inspection companies.

The other main focus is the promotion of our wines, and placing them in strategic places where our wineries deserve to be. We are spending all of our own funds to that end, all of the funds that are not used towards fixed costs. Everything we obtain from vineyard-owners, wineries, etc. goes towards promotion, in addition to the common organization's plans for non-EU countries. We are currently spending around 1 million euros on promotional activities each year.

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19/06/2017