Taking wine to the world
According to figures from Wine Australia, we are the fifth largest exporter of wine in the world, sending around 60 per cent of our total production to 126 destinations worldwide.
For over 100 years, Australia had been a strong player in the Fortified wine trade, but when tastes changed to table wine in the 1970s, we took almost two decades to reemerge into overseas markets.
Brands like McGuigan, Jacob’s Creek and Rosemount paved the way. By 1991 we were exporting $212 million of wine. Extraordinary growth saw exports rise to $3 billion by 2007. It seemed Australian wine could do no wrong.
But the emergence of other New World wine producers such as Chile and Argentina, combined with the Global Financial Crisis, saw our volumes and values fall. And while there are strong signs of recovery these days, driven mainly by demand for Australian wines in North East Asia, particularly China, wine producers know they have to be inventive to establish their brand overseas. So what are some of the ways we are taking our wine to the world?
It was winning a competition that helped propel some of Australia’s wine export pioneers into the international market. In 1979, Tyrrell’s gained recognition when they won the prestigious Gault-Millau Olympics of Wine in France for the 1976 Vat 6 Pinot Noir. Not long after, the 1980 vintage of Rosemount Estate Show Reserve Chardonnay became the first Australian wine to win Double Gold at the International Wine and Spirit Competition.
“It was one of the only wine competitions in those days, now there are many,” says winemaker and businessman, Chris Hancock, who along with Bob Oatley, broke new ground for Australian wine in the UK market with Rosemount. “Winning the double gold got us a lot of attention, but it was being on the ground in the market and lots of hard grafting that established us overseas. These days, Oatley Wines is reaping the benefits of those well trodden paths. “Technology has allowed an ease of communication, but it is still all down to hard work,” says Chris.
A wine community
One of the charters of governing body Wine Australia is growing international markets. General Marketing Manager Stuart Barclay explained that Wine Australia is open to any Australian producer to come to them and seek assistance in establishing channels to market overseas.
The recent VinExpo in Hong Kong saw Wine Australia help facilitate our biggest ever appearance at an international trade show with 225 Australian wine brands among the 1,400+ exhibitors from around the world.
A community of a different sort is also paying dividends. Australia’s First Families of Wine have made plenty of inroads into overseas markets. Each of the 12 family wine producers had already established strong export channels. But by banding together to tell their story and paint a portrait of Australian wine’s true provenance, they’ve been able to garner more success collectively. Additionally, they have been able to change the perception that Australian wine has advanced from the days of cheap and cheerful to premium. The statistics back that up; wine exports grew by 15 per cent in value in 2017, and most of that is in the higher price segments.
“I think we’ve certainly been a major cog in premium wines taking off internationally and that’s not to take away from the work, particularly in Asia, that Treasury through Penfold’s have done,” says Bruce Tyrrell. “They have been a sensational major player in our industry. In Asia, everyone wants a bottle of Grange.”
One producer who has found an unique road to market is Claymore Wines. While they’ve been steadily growing their export business over the past two decades, their relationship with English Premier League’s Liverpool FC has proved to be massively beneficial for the South Australian winery.
“It has been really eye opening,” says Claymore Wines General Manager, Carissa Major. “We are their official wine partner in Australia, but the fact that you are in business with an entity as international and premium as the Liverpool Football Club opens doors around the world.
“It's a wonderful reflection on us. And the ability for us to be able to have club legends such as Robbie Fowler, John Barnes and Didi Hamann host events for us around the world also gets us into new markets and new opportunities.”
Sometimes it is opportunity that helps garner recognition. UK wine writer Matthew Jukes is a real champion of Australian wine. His 100 Best Australian Wines in the UK, recently held for the 15th year in London, is an influential trade tasting and consumer roadshow.
Being in Jukes' top 100 allows pro-active producers to be on the ground in front of potential clients. Jeffrey Grosset (Grosset Wines) and Stephanie Toole (Mt Horrocks) made the trip this year, and the fact that Jukes takes the show on the road to China is also a major coup.
Opportunity and clever marketing have been the key to the continued success of McGuigan in the UK market.
"When Brexit happened, we made the bold strategic decision to invest in the market rather than retreating. As a result, in the UK, we've grown by 13.8 per cent by volume and that makes me a very happy Australian winemaker."