Australian Vintage threatens to pull Wine Australia support

17 August, 2009

Australian wine producer Australian Vintage has questioned the strategic direction of the country’s generic marketing campaign Wine Australia.

Australian Vintage is considering withdrawing its financial support for Wine Australia. The move is in response to Wine Australia’s continued focus on the regionality message rather than style.

Paul Schaafsma, Australian Vintage general manager UK and Europe said: “Fundamentally, we believe the focus should be on style rather than regionality. As an industry, Australia is evolving and developing more appropriate wine styles to meet the ever-changing demands of the market. Stylistically, Australian wine is no longer about big, alcoholic, fat buttery Chardonnays with lashings of oak – it has changed, and this is the message Wine Australia should be communicating.

“Yes, regionality is important to the long-term sustainability of the Australian industry, and we do recognise that the premium wine drinker may find regionality of interest, however this is a very narrow segment of the market. At this point in time we need to be engaging with a broader audience of consumer and get back to what has endeared the UK to Australian wine – consistency, value and flavour.

“Essentially, we think Wine Australia’s regionality strategy is flawed and is not focusing on the right message. As a result, we are reviewing our support of the generic campaign.

“Australian Vintage has recognised the need to continually review the style of wine we produce to ensure we deliver appropriate and relevant wines for the global market. To that end, we have invested in new varietals such as Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc, in addition to evolving the style of varieties such Chardonnay and Shiraz. This shift-change is evident across the entire portfolio, from the volume level wines through to the more premium positioned wines.”

Wine Australia director UK/Ireland/Europe Lisa McGovern said: “The Wine Australia programme is not exclusively centred on regionality, and we are aware that communicating Australia’s stylistic evolution is key to maintaining trade and consumer interest.  Regionality, speaks to Australia’s growing understanding of site selection and varietal choice, and highlights the continuing efforts of viticulturalists and winemakers to focus their efforts on varietals and styles best suited to specific regions. 

"It is essential that our programme reflects the needs and direction of the Australian category as it diversifies and evolves, and that through our programmes we demonstrate that Australia can command a credible premium for its wines across all price points.

"The strength of the programme will ultimately be decided by the members.  We are currently tracking above last year in terms of membership renewals, both for the UK programme and globally, which I think signifies the support for our activities from across the industry. Based on the meetings that I have recently conducted in Australia I am confident that we will see a continued uptake in the promotional programme for 2009/2010, and believe this to be a clear endorsement of our strategy going forward.”