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2020: wine marketing on target during a crisis year

Austria’s wine industry faced unprecedented challenges in 2020. In its just released annual report, the Austrian Wine Marketing Board (AWMB) gives an insight into how it tackled the challenges of the pandemic. To support winemakers as much as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic, the AWMB made changes to its entire 2020 plan at short notice: domestic and international sales channels were heavily promoted, events were moved online, and even a world-first event was hosted in Moscow at the end of November.

For Austrian wine, the year actually started quite promisingly with a very successful Austrian Tasting event in London (400 trade visitors, 620 wines presented), as well as participation in Millésime Bio and Vinexpo Paris, which helped to ensure that 2020 got off to a great start. But then the coronavirus came along... and changed everything.

Austrian wine conquered the internet

With travel restrictions being put in place around the globe, the AWMB reinforced its PR with key international opinion leaders. By the end of the year, more than 1,300 wines had been sent to recipients all around the world for tastings, and most of the AWMB’s international activity had moved online.

Online round-table discussions involving wine experts from around the world were one of 2020’s first digital-format activities, and this remained an attractive format throughout the year. As the AWMB rapidly gained experience in online activities, they were able to handle increasingly larger projects. Some highlights of these included the online version of this year’s Sommelier Competition in New York, online events to coincide with the Austrian Wine Time retail and on-trade campaign in Japan, and a collaboration with the prestigious Star Wine List, including an award ceremony held online.

The first “hybrid” wine-tasting event took place in Moscow at the end of November – a world first! Trade visitors on-location in Moscow took part in the tastings while the winemakers back in Austria were connected to the event via an online tool to facilitate contact and discussion.

Last year, the AWMB organised a total of 70 different activities worldwide to present over 3,100 wines – and that’s not including any activity in the domestic market of Austria and the main export market of Germany. The AWMB’s digital events were followed by more than 1,500 industry professionals.

Activity in Germany similarly well received

In Germany, Austria’s most important export market, the AWMB organised 24 different events during 2020 where they presented more than 900 wines. Nine of these events were hosted online due to COVID-19, but the rest were able to take place on-location in compliance with all applicable safety regulations. The Berlin with a Glass of Wine campaign in late summer was a real success, with Berlin’s citizens benefiting from 55 Austrian wine hotspots in the city, amongst other highlights.

Through online trade promotions, the AWMB was able to bring focus to another 1,400 wines – reaching 800,000 consumers in total.

Valuable media presence

Enjoying year-round media response among both the domestic and international press, Austrian wine was the subject of more than 2,700 informative articles across 610 media outlets – corresponding to an advertising equivalent value of €116.5 million.

Exports: slight annual drop expected

Despite the serious global effects of the pandemic, exports of Austrian wine increased by 2.7% in terms of volume from January to September 2020 compared to the same period the previous year (figures from Statistics Austria). In terms of revenue, however, the same period saw a decrease of 0.4%. Performance in Austria’s leading export markets of Germany, Switzerland and the USA was particularly noteworthy in comparison to that of large wine-producing countries like France and Italy, which saw significant declines in their exports in some cases.

In September, the second wave of COVID-19 was already bringing renewed restrictions and a negative impact on exports, both in terms of volume and revenue. Figures for the year’s final quarter are not yet available, but export figures for the full year are expected to be slightly down at around 62 million litres (2.4% down on 2019) and €175 million (4.4% down on 2019).

The domestic market: On-trade in decline, boosts in wine tourism and consumption at home

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic were felt differently in the Austrian market. On-trade, which is Austria’s key domestic sales channel, suffered significantly in 2020: For the first three quarters, wholesalers supplying the on-trade recorded a drop of 22.2% in terms of volume and 17.5% in terms of revenue. These figures do not reflect the leisure and hospitality industry closures that were reimposed during the second lockdown in late autumn/winter.

Austrian wine benefited from increasing levels of consumption at home (January to May: 30.7% up in terms of volume) and sales through multiple grocers: 11.3% up in terms of volume and 13.1% up in terms of revenue (Q1–Q3). Wine sales were boosted further through wine tourism, which the AWMB supported through its largest ever wine tourism campaign. In July and August, Styria and Burgenland regions recorded a slight increase in overnight stays compared to the previous year.

In spite of these positives, the large decline in sales caused by the lack of on-trade and events could not be balanced out completely in the overall totals.

A seamless series of four campaigns

The first lockdown in spring 2020, and closures in the on-trade especially, forced winemakers and the AWMB to rethink their domestic sales strategy in a very short space of time, shifting the focus onto the sales channels that were still open: retail, online and ex cellar. To provide immediate support, the AWMB launched the “Schmecke die Herkunft” (Taste the Origin) campaign at the end of March, which directed Austrian consumers to these specific channels. This campaign saw increased effectiveness thanks to the 600 winemakers who took part via social media.

The first campaign was followed by three further seasonal campaigns that slightly overlapped, bringing a boost in wine sales. Running between May and August, the G’spritzer campaign, promoting the Austrian white wine spritz, attracted consumers back to bars and Heurige (wine taverns) once they had reopened. In July, the AWMB launched its largest wine tourism campaign to date: Auf zum Wein (All Aboard for Wine). This campaign brought domestic tourists and those from neighbouring countries to Austria’s winegrowing regions. By October, this campaign alone had generated 99 million views across Austria, Germany and Switzerland. Finally, starting in November, the AWMB launched the Weine zum Fest (Wines for the Festive Season) campaign to encourage an end-of-year season centred around wine, with the goal of promoting consumption at home.

These four campaigns reached a total of 135.5 million views across Austria, Germany and Switzerland.


AWMB Annual Report 2020 (PDF; German only)


Austrian Wine Marketing Board

A picture shows Chris Yorke, CEO of the AWMB.
© Austrian Wine / Anna Stöcher


Mr Chris Yorke

Press information & Contact

Mr Georg Schullian
Teamleader Press, PR & Corporate Design

Ms Sabine Bauer-Wolf
Head of Communications

T: +43 1 503 92 67-30