Savour Australia


Head of Buying Andrew Shaw reports on his visit to Australia’s global wine forum

September’s Savour Australia conference was billed as the country’s global wine forum with an ambitious aim of challenging the world’s perceptions about Australian wine by promoting the diversity, regionality and quality available.

It was a laudable aim and Savour succeeded in putting the spotlight on the issues the country’s wine industry faces; where it perhaps fell down was the fact it was preaching to the converted. Most of the international buyers there already knew that there’s more to Australia than generic Murray Darling Chardonnay and that Sydney’s restaurant scene can rival the best of London and San Francisco. It isn’t their perceptions that need challenging; it’s those of their customers, ordinary drinkers in retailers and restaurants around the world. None of this is new.

Tourism Australia is leading the charge with a new global campaign promoting “Restaurant Australia,” capitalising on a trend for gourmet travel and breaking the age old misconception that Australian food is little more than barbecued prawns. The watchwords are regionality, provenance and typicity, all of which apply to wine every bit as much as food.

We know there is a thirsty market for Australian wine in the UK. Neilsen’s numbers put it in black and white and Bibendum’s own Taste Test survey results place Australia in the top two “favourite wine countries” for every region in the country. SAGA has reported the influential, affluent baby boomer generation “trust” Australia more than any other holiday destination.

In recent times, the problem has been the lack of profits that enthusiasm has generated for Australian producers. It should be no surprise that winemakers across Australia have been investing more in the Far East and the US than over here. That won’t change overnight but the softening of the Aussie Dollar and a plentiful 2013 vintage should help Australia sharpen its competitive edge in the UK – and that provides us with a fresh opportunity to revitalise drinker’s understanding and passion for the wines.

We need to expand people’s horizons and celebrate Australia’s diversity. We need to see more of the country’s characters in the UK and put them in front of consumers at every opportunity. The country covers a larger area than the whole of western Europe and those climatic and geological difference have a huge impact on the wines. Hunter Valley Semillon is deliciously different to a Margaret River SBS blend and there is room for both in a wine aisle.

None of this can be done with one generic message plastered on bill board and tube trains. It’s up to every supplier and importer to do their bit and sell themselves and their own individual colour. The collective patchwork of stories will add up to more than the sum of its parts.

For my part, I’ve never been more enthused by Australian wines in the fifteen years I have been buying them. I’m incredibly excited by the new wave of elegant, drinkable, but serious, Cabernets from Coonawarra, WA and Victoria. The latter’s King Valley is just one of the cooler climate regions that has the potential to dazzle UK wine lovers. Tasmania is another and the reception the on trade has given to the Josef Chromy wines we started importing this year is very encouraging indeed.

Australia is a mature wine industry with a huge amount to offer. It’s now up to the UK trade to spread the word beyond the four walls of an Adelaide conference centre and really change the way people think about Aussie wine.

15th October 2013

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