Estonia: President Estonian Sommelier Association on Trends
Comments from Kristjan Markii
Trends, in Estonia and Baltics overall, are a little similar and yet at the same time very different. A local small production, so-called craft production, is booming. At the same time, the majority of the drinks (wine, spirits) are still imported. I would say that trends in the following categories are:
Wine: Overall, wine is getting the image that it is a fine drink and a little healthier than other types of alcohol. More and more it appears on our dinner tables on a daily basis – at home as well as in restaurants. Due to a good economic state, the fine wine business is slowly rising. Sparkling wines and champagne are really in focus right now. Prosecco is still number one by the volume, but consumers are turning more and more to traditional sparkling wines like Champagne, Crémant or Cava. With those drinks, the focus is more on terroir wines and producers with personality. In the still wine business, I see the same trends, plus an extra biodynamic and natural wine scene developing in restaurants and with the influencers, which will have an impact on the common wine lovers soon. Besides that I can see growth, or let´s say a comeback of wines from Eastern Europe. The low-quality sweetish style is replaced by drier and higher quality wines and is offering good value and interesting regions and grapes to discover.
Beer and cider: In the beer scene, the craft beer revolution is stabilizing. The rise of new breweries has slowed down during the last year and we may say that the market is tight in this sector. For existing breweries, it is now time to improve the level of quality and price to keep up in the competition. A new trend is a sour style of beers, by local brewers as well as by imported craft beers. Styles like Gose, Gueuze, Berliner Weisse etc. are very trendy. However, most selling beers are still pale lagers, domestically produced and imported. In the ciders, the mass market sweet style of ciders is declining and new local producers with a dry style and character are taking over more and more positions at the fine restaurants and bars. There is plenty of raw material available and there is potential to grow to have more producers.
Spirits: Vodka is the most selling spirit and major selling vodkas have already been on the market for a long time. Locally, there are three major producers: Altia Eesti Ltd, A/S Liviko and Moe Spirits. Concerning imported vodkas, the majority comes from Russia and Ukraine with some competition from Sweden and Finland.
Gin is really booming right now and it is the trendiest spirit on the market. There is a countless list of imported brands, but it only encouraged to start local gin production. There are about 10 producers right now, but we can expect growth within the next few years. Regarding the latest trends, I would say that rum, mezcal and fine tequila and whiskey are waiting in line, waiting for their turn to shine. These styles of spirits have strong support from mixology and will soon take over, or at least some will share the popularity of gin.
As a conclusion, I see that more and more consumers are placing the focus on quality and flavours, instead of volume and price. The origin of the drink is important. In the old times consumers expected that good wines are produced in France or Italy and whiskey in Scotland. This expectation is losing its importance and consumers tend to be more open-minded. It is more important to have a high-quality product with character and a good story and a reasonable price.