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Wine Australia targets international tourists and China export market in new national plan

theaustralian.com.au by BELINDA WILLIS10/07/2017  

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TARGETING inbound international wine tourists and the key export market of China are likely to be key planks in the new $50 million export and regional wine support package, according to Australian Grape and Wine Authority chairman Brian Walsh.

Mr Walsh, whose organisation is implementing the package announced in the May Federal Budget, was unable to reveal extensive details but said the suggested plan was now with the government.

“There will be two major spends, one on export market development and we’ve picked two very important markets, China would likely be one of them,” said Mr Walsh, who was last week reappointed AGWA chair for a further three years.

“There are also lots of smaller wineries scattered right across our country that don’t actually export but rely heavily on cellar door and people coming to regions, so it will also target inbound international tourism.”

Adelaide-based AGWA, known as Wine Australia, is advertising for seven new staff members in South Australia to back the plan and Barossa-based Mr Walsh said work was expected to begin in months.

There has been extensive consultation with the wine and tourism industry over the plan, reflecting a growing connection between the two sectors.

Wine Australia’s offices are embedded with Tourism Australia’s in London, Shanghai and a marketing office in Sydney, and it also has a stand-alone site in San Francisco.

Mr Walsh said another key focus for the wine support package — along with Wine Australia’s existing 2015-2020 Strategic Plan — was to challenge stereotypes of Australian wines being more lower-end, affordable drops.

Mr Walsh said while this affordable wine approach had been successful in developing strong markets in the United Kingdom and US, it was now time to challenge the concept and push for Australia’s premium wines to be recognised alongside sought-after regions in France or Spain.

“In the United Kingdom, amazingly, one in every five wines sold at retail level is Australian, however, we don’t see anywhere near as heavy representation in the restaurant trade,” he said.

“We see an opportunity there to actually get more of our better wines represented in retail at fine wine stores and in special occasion wines, but also as restaurant wines.

“We’re bringing down barriers and assumptions that Australia is a colonial outpost.”

Two months ago, Wine Australia teamed up with Tourism Australia at The World’s Best 50 Restaurants event in Melbourne, also hosting the world’s best sommeliers in a bid to get more Australian labels on leading international wine lists.

After the event, sommeliers visited wine regions throughout Australia, including South Australia’s Barossa, McLaren Vale and Adelaide Hills. “Some have started listing Australian wines already — we don’t expect them to chuck out all of their old wines immediately, it’s a slow burn,” Mr Walsh said.

Australia is currently the sixth-largest wine-producing country, with about two-thirds exported and sales valued at $2.2 billion in 2016.

Mr Walsh said Wine Australia was concurrently working on a national plan for sustainability branding along with a strategy to counteract wine label counterfeiting.

“It’s a smallish problem but potentially a growing concern, I’ve heard some numbers around Scotch whiskey that are mind-boggling and most have probably heard about the wines being marketed as Benfolds,” he said.