OZ Wine: Outback steps forward

17 March, 2015

“As Australian consumers explore the newer varieties in the market they are not increasing their consumption but are moving up in price point. This had led to value growth off a stable volume. 

“Interestingly, where Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon were equal in consumption in the past, Shiraz is now pulling away as the popularity of medium-bodied wines grow. The growth in medium-bodied wines from Australia is also opening up new export opportunities as the traditional full-bodied wines are being joined on-shelf by the new medium-body offerings.

Geoff Krieger, general manager of Hunter Valley producer Brokenwood Wines, says: “While the big companies continue to play the commodity wine game, the other 3,000 or so wine companies are working hard to re-establish the industry’s position of producing high quality, regionally specific, interesting wines.

As to what trends he perceives, Krieger says: “The interesting trends are for established regions such as the Hunter Valley to be producing more wines from single-vineyard sites that truly express the qualities of the site and the region – think ultra-fine, long-living Semillons and medium-bodied, savoury Shiraz. Newer, cooler regions are working with Italian and Spanish varieties to good effect.”


Australia gained a reputation – some may say notoriety – for big blockbuster, fruitbomb wines such as Barossa Valley Shiraz. But there has been a move to lower-alcohol wines and McGuigan has been at the forefront of that innovation.

Dyer reacts: “Australia made its name with innovation and technology, and we at Australian Vintage have in particular been at the forefront of developing new wine styles with slightly lower or lower alcohol levels.

“This is a complex area that stirs up emotions in traditional segments of the trade. The first thing to say is that most wine tastes best when grapes are at maturity, so very naturally wine is best between 10% and 15%, depending on region and vintage etc.

“With the consumer trend towards refreshment there is no doubt, however, that average alcohol levels are coming down. Our McGuigan Semillon tastes perfect, yet is under 11%.”

He continues: “Then there is the true alcohol-reduced category, which is an area we lead in, and we have invested in the latest spinning cone technology. The market for low-alcohol wines will always remain relatively small, but it is significant, and the importance is for us to recognise it is a different category appealing to different consumers, and to ensure that the taste and quality proposition delivers,” says Dyer.

Tony Parkinson, group principal and global sales director of McLaren Vale’s Penny’s Hill, says: “Australia remains a quality producer. However, driven by our volume producers, the perception has been skewed towards ‘cheap’, which has affected our ability to crack restaurant wine lists globally and thus Brand Australia has been watered down.

“Overall there has been minimal new planting in recent years but replanting will rise as vines need replanting and yields need to return to sustainable levels.  Many producers are trending towards lighter, lower-alcohol styles of European origin backed by boutique sized plantings of Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, et al. 

“Australians are inclining towards lower-alcohol, fresh and food-friendly wines as our culinary impetus gains further momentum. The high A$ and chain store dominance has given rise to imports from Europe and South America in particular, which has influenced what Australians now drink. New Zealand is retracting its overt Sauvignon Blanc penetration of Australia in favour of the US. That will help lift our white wines back to better standing.”

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