According to William Wouters, chairman of the Belgium Sommeliers Guild, "if you want to find a good winery, check the wineries where cars with Belgian license plates are parked."*
France remains the market leader, accounting for 45% of volume in 2016 and 55% of value. Belgium is an important market for wine consumption, with many wine connoisseurs among the 11m population. In 2016, Belgium came ninth in the ranking of import countries, importing approximately 300m liters. When it comes to value, Belgium ranks 10th, with sales of €900m ($1.100m), according to the International Organization of Vine and Wine (OIV).
The markets of Wallonia and Brussels are traditionally a bit more focused on France, where the market share is approximately 60%; in Flanders it's 40%. Between 2014 and 2016, the imports of French wine declined by about 13% in volume in favor of wines from the New World, such as South Africa and Chile. Imports from Spain and Italy also increased; these two countries are now in second and third place in Belgium.
Wouters is proud of how much the Belgians know about French wines, though he adds there is a difference depending on which part of the country they come from. Brussels, the capital, is neutral territory. In Wallonia, the south, people prefer French wines. In Flanders, in the north, drinkers are more open to wines from the New World — and are willing to pay more for them.
We have analyzed white wines listed in the Brussels restaurants.
Gido Van Imschoot, chairman of the Flemish Sommeliers Association, sees major differences between north and south. "Our language border is also a taste-and-supply boundary in many ways. The Walloons are indeed a bit more traditional and more focused on France" he says. "Cahors, Anjou, Beaujolais are much more common there than in Flanders; the New World is almost non-existent"."Previously most of it came from France, which is really shifting to wines from Italy," he says, adding that it's partly because French wine has become more expensive.
When it comes to the on-trade, Wouters says: "I think there is a slight preference for white wines in restaurants. Often a white wine is served as an aperitif. Wines with fresh acidity, a lot of fruit, not too difficult, do well." He adds that Belgians in general, but in Flanders in particular, are very fond of sparkling wine. "Belgians are solid Champagne consumers" agrees wine writer Frank Van der Auwera.
In Wallonia, on the other hand, says Van der Auwera, Prosecco is more popular than Cava. And red wine is the top choice for still wine. "In Wallonia, nine out of 10 bottles are still red; in Flanders four out of 10 bottles are white".
The majority of Belgians drink their wine at home or in private circles — and the wine usually comes from the supermarket. The fact that a lot of wine is drunk at home, according to Van Imschoot, has to do with alcohol legislation and the strict checks of drivers, particularly on weekends.
Source: Wine Analytics
Author: David BECK