OZ Wine: Outback steps forward

17 March, 2015

“And, at a fine wine level, Penfolds continues to enjoy remarkable success, transcending Australian wine and establishing itself as one of the world’s great wineries,” claims Townsend.

Around 60% of Australian wine is exported. The top five export markets are: UK (245m litres, +1%), US (164m, -8%), Canada (60m, +20%) and China (37m, -5% – Hong Kong was up 9% to 7.5m litres). 

Townsend says one in five bottles of wine sold in the off-trade in the UK are from Australia – so the trade should never be under any illusions as to how important the Australian wine industry is in the UK. In the Netherlands, Lindeman’s is the number one wine brand and over Christmas the Lindeman’s Bins range sold more than 2m bottles in Albert Heijn – at a price point above the category average. 

Coutures adds: “The greatest challenges we currently face as an industry are fuelled by the continued unsustainable grape supply situation, a domestic taxation system which penalises premium wines, and adverse foreign exchange rates, which we note are currently adjusting. 

“While the planted area in Australia has declined in recent years, the current production levels exceed sustainable demand, and further structural reform/consolidation is required. We believe the current wine tax system (including certain producer rebates) is inhibiting the required adjustment, and reform in this area would allow market forces to operate without distortion – and would also provide a better platform for the production and promotion of premium wines.” 

Accolade Wines’ Schaafsma maintains Australia should not try to replicate Europe – it must stay focused. Its most popular varieties are Shiraz, Cabernet and Chardonnay. For him, Asia is a key market, along with the UK and US. He believes strongly that Australian wines have been “dumbed down” in recent years and adversely affected by the “anything but Chardonnay” reaction from some writers.

Accolade’s Robertson claims that the anti-Chardonnay movement has not been bourne out by the figures. While many observers perceive the rise in popularity of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio, the actual stats show that Chardonnay sales have held up.

Plantings

Julian Dyer, general manager UK & Europe, Australian Vintage, has a different view. He says: “The amount of planting occurring in Australia is very small but there is some activity with some new or lesser-known varieties being planted by wine producers who understand that innovation is important for the long-term viability of, and indeed excitement in, the Australian wine industry. 

“Varieties such as Fiano, Tempranillo, Montepulciano, Grüner Veltliner, Arneis and Prosecco are all being planted in Australia in a range of regions. Some of the early work looks promising.” 

You get a different perspective from one of the smaller producers.

Mark Hely, director of export for the McWilliam’s Wines Group (which comprises McWilliam’s, Mount Pleasant, Evans & Tate and Brand’s Laira) also perceives interest in other grape varieties: “The key trend in Australia is the move to more medium-bodied wines in line with the rest of the world. While Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are still the big four we are seeing growth in Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio. 





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