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Vinmonopolet ( ), commonly shortened to Polet, is a government owned alcoholic beverage retailer and the only company allowed to sell beverages containing an alcohol content higher than 4.7% in Norwaymarker. The institution was founded in 1922 as a government-owned company as the result of trade negotiations with wine exporters, mainly France. The ban on alcohol was lifted, and sale was allowed through outlets run by Vinmonopolet. Since 1939 the state, through the Norwegian Ministry of Health and Care Services, has been the sole owner. The company's import and production activities ceased in 1996 when the EFTAmarker ruled that the monopoly was in violation of the EEA agreement, the company separated the created entity Arcus, leaving Vinmonopolet as a sole retail monopoly.

In 1999 the format of the outlets was restructured, making nearly all stores self service from the previous format of sales over the counter, and internet sales began in 2002. Outlets typically close business earlier than other shops, normally weekdays at 18:00 and Saturdays at 15:00. In 2007 Vinmonopolet sold 71.1 million litres of alcohol.

Consumer relations

In a 2008 survey by Norsk Kundebarometer, customers of the monopoly were 81.5% satisfied with the company, ranking it 4th in Norway. There are critical voices, however, that question the institution's selection process of allowing a small self-recruited group, termed "the taste bureaucracy", make the wine buying decisions on behalf of the entire Norwegian people.

The institution has not stayed clear of problems. In one instance in 2001, the published price list offered Château Latour at the incredibly priced NOK 555, where an estimate would normally be approximately NOK 2,600, causing the quickest three customers to order to buy up the entire inventory, with the intent to make a fast and considerable profit. The explanation was that the more modestly priced Château Latour à Pomerol had its name listing edited down for brevity.

Surveys from the mid 90s, indicated a majority of the Norwegian population were in support of dissolving the monopoly arrangement, and allowing for the sale of wine by the private sector. Since the restructuring of 1996, the consumer satisfaction steadily increased, the events described by current CEO Kai G. Henriksen as "the lifting of the import ban was a stroke of fortune. Today we have 210 importers competing to find the most reasonably priced, the best and most glorious wines of the world."

Sommelier of Bagatellemarker, Robert Lie has stated, "I am among the supporters. In recent years Vinmonopolet has had great impact on the wine interest of the average Norwegian. To my knowledge there are no wine stores in the world with an equal selection. There are also fairly good prices for more expensive wines. For highly coveted wines one must pay much more in London." Torkjell Berulfsen, presenter of considerable TV programming with focus on alcoholic goods, has stated, "These days I praise Vimonopolet into the clouds. I bless it! I don't dare imagine some zitty, unmotivated 25-year old 'red wine supervisor' at Rimi!"

Arne Ronold MW has pointed to the formats of UK and Denmark as successful alternatives that offer good selections in supermarkets and specialty stores, while stating that the present situation offers a wide selection for consumers in certain areas but with considerably more limited options for some other areas, and while more costly wines may be less expensive in the Vinmonopolet format, this is a "positive side-effect of a market that doesn't work, being of little benefit to the average consumer". He acknowledges "a near-revolution in that at present there are more than 10,000 products available, which is wonderful", adding, "I have been among the most ardent critics but have mildened somewhat. I am adequately satisfied with Vinmonopolet as it is now. But they still have some way to go concerning aged wine and the second hand market. In this, access is poor."
Exterior of Vinmonopolet at Briskeby


In a commentary, Tom Marthinsen of Dagens Næringsliv has also acknowledged the progress from the conditions of the 90s, but is critical towards the current direction of employing new techniques from chain stores, leading to standardization of the urban outlets, while the rural stores have a "catastrophical selection", and these consumers from "the districts" would benefit from purchasing wine in their local food store. Marthinsen has called upon the leadership to "set free the store buyers, reinstate the competitive element between the stores, in other words leave behind the chain store mentality and allow local creativity to flourish".

In December 2008, Vinmonopolet announced plans to implement a system of arranging auctions of second hand wine, similar to the model in use by Swedish Systembolaget. Under current Norwegian law it is illegal to sell alcohol by auction.

Corruption cases

In what is known as Dysthesaken (the Dysthe case) in 1930 exposed flaws in the goods acquisition procedures of Vinmonopolet, and as a consequence changes were made to the procedure. Leadership were sentenced for combining company and personal interests. The influence and power of individuals in purchasing decisions were reduced would after this. Following this, a law of July 19, 1931 (Vinmonopolloven, the wine monoploy law) came into effect.

Ekjordsaken, (the Ekjord case) uncovered in 2005, brought new allegations of corruption against employees and leadership of Vinmonopolet. A probe led by Erling Grimstad exposed that the importer Ekjord A/S over the course of several years had sponsored outlet leaders by arranging luxury dining and accommodations as well as other gifts in order to influence purchases and placement of their products within the stores. Several leadership members admitted to having recveived wines and other perks, leading to reprimands of 9 individuals, two of which were dismissed.

The initiating factor was an employee with Ekjord A/S who was fired, and sued to reclaim his position. During the trial the elaborate "grease culture" in the company Ekjord A/S was uncovered. Knut Grøholt withdrew from the position of CEO of Vinmonopolet later that year, and in April 2006 was replaced by Kai G. Henriksen.

Rødvin

When the German occupation forces withdrew from Norway in 1945, there remained behind 400,000 litres of Bordeaux wine which became the foundation of the generic "Rødvin" ("Red wine"), the best selling wine in Norway over several decades, which is accredited as a cornerstone in "cultivating Norwegian drinking culture". Nicknamed "Château Hasle" (from the location name of the Vinmonopolet head quarters) and "Sekskroners" ("costing six kroner"), sales of the brand are estimated in excess of 120 million litres, it eventually ceased being the national top seller due to the arrival of inexpensive Chilean and Italian wines in 1998.

The initial blends consisting of Bordeaux wines from the 1934 and 1937 vintages, along with simple German and Italian wine, were sold from January 1, 1946 for NOK total of 4.50, both Rødvin and Hvitvin (White wine), all sold out by 1947. As the successive imports of wine from Algeria, Tunisia and Chile marketed under other names failed to sell well, an initiative was made in 1949 to compose a new blended wine for the people, affordable and easily drinkable. Purchasing director Haakon Svensson was given a set budget and assigned to negotiate deals with wine producers, initially securing deals with winemakers from Le Midi, Valenciamarker and Algeria, with an aim to produce a blended wine that could decrease the Norwegian people's vast consumption of liquor, at the time ten to one the ratio of the consumption of wine.


On sale from February 1, 1950 at the total price of NOK 6 (NOK 4 + 50% tax), the price remained fixed until 1968, causing it to be widely known as "the six kroner wine". By 1970 it cost NOK 7, and by 1990 it had risen to NOK 43. Normally blended from 5 to 10 wines, from locations that later also included Cyprus and Turkey, Rødvin was in 1972 responsible for 40% of all wine sold in Norway, leading up to the peak of its popularity in the 1980s. In 1981 there was sold 3.8 million liter, while by 2000 Rødvin production had been transferred to Arcus and annual sales had decreased to 700,000 liters.

Golden Power

Golden Power was a Norwegian-produced sparkling fruit wine (not to be confused with an energy drink under the same name), made of 70% rhubarb, 20% apple and 10% grape juice , which was produced by Vingården (the Røed farm in Filtvet, in the Tofte area, in Hurummarker). Golden Power has been taken over by Vinmonopolet in 2006, and though it was once sold as a fruit wine for shellfishes, it seems that this local product is no more available since the beginning of 2007, with very few bottles left at the end of 2006 .

It was felt as part of the local culture , and a rare, innovative Norwegian product . Production started in 1886 and Vingården had a production capacity of some 800,000 litres. This typical wine has been produced during four years. At the end of this “Polarmarker production” adventure, the company has produced between 20,000 and 25,000 bottles per year.

Other alcoholic monopolies



References

  1. kundebarometer.com Customer poll, search criteria - satisfaction
  2. VG.no (April 21, 2008). Kai G. Henriksen ny sjef i Vinmonopolet
  3. Dn.no (April 21, 2006). Ny direktør i Vinmonopolet
  4. Holt, Morten, Horecanytt (January 2, 2008). Folkevin i ny drakt
  5. Apéritif: Golden Power
  6. Ført bak lyset av Valgkomitéen
  7. Minnefinnerne på Filtvet: «Når jeg tenker på hva et kulturminne betyr» ()
  8. Sjelden norsk vare


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