Sebastian Braun is wine director for four companies – Oenoforos, Carovin, Vintedge and Vini Buoni – that import wines into Sweden and sell them to the alcohol retail monopoly, Systembolaget Aktiebolag, which Sebastian used to work for as a buyer. Some of the four companies have additional activities, with Oenoforos, for example, buying wine in bulk and having its own private brands, with some production exported. We asked Sebastian about his work and what were his key objectives at Wine Paris & Vinexpo Paris 2022.
I represent a group of four importing companies. One of my missions here was to meet with my existing contacts and the producers we work with. It’s a great opportunity to meet everyone in one place. Since we have a monopoly in Sweden, all the major business opportunities are open to everyone. We’re working with the tenders which they publish. And my other aim was to find new business opportunities. I had my targets. It could be an appellation that I know that’s missing.
How do you work with the monopoly and what are they looking for?
You always have to present and propose ideas to the buyers, for instance the French buyer for the monopoly. I have to keep track of what’s available and say, ‘Here are a couple of good producers of these appellations that are not represented’. Or it could be a style of wine like an aromatic white blend. We have about 500 importers in Sweden, so we’re trying to do it better than the rest. If we have very good offers, this might create a tender, so we try to work proactively. If we have something unique and there’s a gap identified, we propose it to the buyer. And we work on the existing tenders. We’re the second-largest importer. We work with the other monopolies, such as Finland, through our export company.
Is sustainability an important issue for wines imported into Sweden?
In the Swedish market, organic has the highest proportion of total sales – more than 20% of the market. The monopoly is really, really focused on sustainability. They’re keen to have most of these tenders sustainability certified and even in climate-smart packaging. The monopoly has a very ambitious target to decrease the environmental impact. They’re doing this through lightweight bottles, PET bottles, paper packaging and bag-in-box.
What wine preferences are there in Sweden?
Italian reds dominate the market. With the white wine side, France is still totally dominating, and for rosé as well. What you see in the trendy wine bars and with influencers, is that they go for the light style of red wines. It’s totally different in the mass market, who wants it to have a lot of fruit, more residual sugar.
Photo: Sebastian Braun, Wine Director, Oenoforos, Carovin and Vini Buoni. Managing Director, Vintedge
THE SWEDISH MARKET
Sweden, a country of 10.3 million people, many affluent by international standards, is an attractive market for overseas wine producers.
While there are hundreds of registered wine importers selling to the monopoly, most of the market is accounted for by the top 20 or so importers.
Among alcoholic beverages, wine and spirits are in second place behind only beer, with wine imports valued at about €790 million in 2020, a figure that is more than 10% higher than that of just two years earlier.
The country’s wine consumers are increasingly focused on premium wines, and – aside from the significant and ever-growing focus on sustainability – wines with lower alcohol content are also increasingly popular.
Despite its chilly climate, Sweden is a wine producer, with about 100 to 150 hectares of vineyards, most of them in the south of the country. Typical wine producers in Sweden are small, with between one and 10 hectares each.
With winters tending to be milder than they once were, and summers warmer, conditions are becoming more suitable for domestic wine production.