Australian wine: Fighting spirit

While Hardys is doing well in the UK, Schaafsma admits that the US is “a challenge”. He puts it down to a number of factors. The decline of the Yellow Tail, brand which had been so huge in the US, the rise in popularity of Italian Pinot Grigio and the strength of the Australian dollar against the Greenback have all contributed.

He says that, after a tough few years, the Nordic countries are “pulling back – Denmark is very strong” and a “joint business plan” with multiple retailer Tesco in its Asian markets – China, South Korea, Thailand and Malaysia – bodes well for the company. Accolade has also opened an office in Prague to look at central and eastern European markets.

Australian Vintage’s general manager, UK and Europe, Julian Dyer says: “Australian wine continues to be a relevant and powerful international presence, and in the UK we have successfully maintained our number one status by a clear margin. As a category we have also recently had unparalleled show success, with Australian winemakers winning International Winemaker of the Year at the IWSC every year for the past four years – McGuigan won three of them – and also winning both red (Wolf Blass) and white (McGuigan) winemakers of the Year at this year’s IWC.

“This points to a purple patch, and demonstrates that Australia continues to lead the world in terms of quality, style, regionality and authenticity,” he says.

“Stylistically, Australia has subtly modernised its ‘house style’, moving more towards elegance and refreshment without losing Australian typicity. Neil McGuigan, chief winemaker of McGuigan Wines, talks consistently about ‘flavour and lightness’ in his wine, “a happy marriage of Australian depth of fruit with balanced acidity, tannin and oak,” he says.

“Many of Australia’s best wines remain regional blends – the bedrock upon which was built the Australian wine industry. Regionality (and terroir) is important, but not at the expense of quality. I think Australia is finding a happy medium, recognising the great single vineyard/region wines, but also celebrating the consistency and quality that regional blends can bring, from both irrigated and dry-grown regions,” says Dyer.

Dan Townsend, Treasury Wine Estates’ general manager UK, Ireland & western Europe, also points to Australia’s success in wine competitions. He says: “If you look at Australia’s quality credentials it has cleaned up at the major global wine awards this year. 

“If you look at TWE both in UK and globally our brands are very much central to this. Wolf Blass, for example won the red winemaker award at the IWC and the big IWSC title as well as three trophies. Penfolds Grange 2008 was this year awarded two 100-point scores in the Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator,” he says

“And if you want to understand how Australian brands are viewed across the world, look at the recent opening of the Penfolds Boutique store in Sydney Airport duty free. There we are talking about a premium shop dedicated to an Australian wine brand, facing shoppers from across the world,” adds Townsend.

Strong and diverse

Yalumba’s Rose says more consumers are becoming aware of the quality offering coming out of Australia: “The negative stereotyping of our wine continues in parts outside Australia and when thinking consumers wake up they will understand what they have been missing.”