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Norwegian wine buyers get to pick and choose

Norway's state-owned wine monopoly is turning its retail outlets into self-service stores, where customers can browse at their leisure instead of having to buy over the counter.

Since being set up in 1922, state-owned shops have required customers to stand in line and request what they want at the counter (shown above). The move to self-service is not only making the whole experience more relaxed for Norwegians, but also opening up the market to a greater variety of brands.

The new-style shops have found that sales of easy-to-recall wines – with instantly recognisable labels or straightforward names – are falling, while wines with long French or more obscure names, are gaining ground. Gato Negro from Chilean winery Viña San Pedro – a classic in Norway for many years – now sells about half as much as before, while Vin de Pays d’Oc wines from French producer Jean-Paul Chenet have nearly doubled their market share.

Pasqua, the family-run company in Italy’s Veneto region, has also seen rising sales. ‘The Norwegian market is very interesting to us,’ Ilaria Ippoliti said. ‘Our wines are selling more and more.’ Paqua’s Primitivo Salento has steadily grown in popularity.

‘Being able to see the bottles and read the label has changed my wine buying habits,’ Ida Dahl Nilssen, a Norwegian customer said. ‘It felt a bit awkward having to buy wine at a counter, and we would somehow feel inferior in those old-fashioned shops.’

Written by Joergen W Lyngvaer29 October 2002

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