The battle to export continues,but war not won

Export battle

Australian wine exports are on the up. This is worth applauding, but it’s a long, drawn-out war and the battles will continue. I use the word “battle”, as the basis of my thoughts is the adage about how winning a battle is not the same as winning a war.

The time has come for adjustment, and if that is successful, fine tuning. We are all aware of the broad scope of Australian wine. But for many consumers Australian wine equals shiraz. We also have far too much chardonnay planted, and in the main Australian chardonnay is stuck in the broader consumer appeal and lower price sector.

There is still too much reliance on the UK and US markets. But success in both these markets has been for big brands on promotion. China is very much on the up, and Australian wine producers are extremely proud of how they are managing the Chinese market. Indeed, well done to all. But the well-managed Chinese market is the result of lessons learnt while buggering up the UK and US markets.

An article in the Adelaide Advertiser by Belinda Willis on September 13 outlined the success of the Zonte’s Footstep brand. The article says the brand has increased its exports to Canada by 60 per cent. On overall exports the ’Tizer quotes Zonte’s Footstep managing director Anna Fisher:

“I would love to see our overall export market growth at about 70 per cent of our revenue, it’s more a three-year goal.”

The company is also moving the brand into the US. No details were given but we wish it well. For many, 70 per cent export seems a high figure to aim for, but in reality I think it right.

There is a long road to recovery ahead in established markets, as tastings in The Drinks Business show. The magazine has run two articles/tastings on rosé wines: one still, one sparkling.

Apparently, wines from all over the world were sipped, savoured and spat by a panel made up mainly of MWs. In the still wines France got 9 out of the best 10 wines in the world, and champagne rosé dominated the sparkling section. England and New Zealand had one apiece in the sparkling sector.

Australia didn’t have any of the top 10s. Maybe none were entered for the tastings, but it is disappointing, as there are some Australian beauties.

Battles on home shores between producers and retailers are ongoing, but overseas harmony can be found. The recent announcement that Treasury Wines Estates (TWE) has appointed Summergate as the official importer and distributor of Wolf Blass wines in Hong Kong and Macau demonstrates that the arguments (if any) that TWE has with Woolworths do not apply to the Woolworths-owned Summergate.

It’s a sensible approach. Much more sensible than the argument that Cameron England, business editor of The Advertiser, puts forward about supermarkets and wine. The full TKR opinion on this can be found in the Australian Wine News section.

Excitement wise, little beats Accolade Wines at the moment. Accolade CEO Paul Schaafsma stepping down for reasons unclear was closely followed by the news that France-based private equity firm PAI Partners is having a look at Accolade’s books to take over the company from current Australian majority owner CHAMP Private Equity. CHAMP is some way down the road of a public listing but an outright sale would save it time and money. It’s gripping stuff. What will be the next revelation?

At a special general meeting of Wine Grape Growers Australia (WGGA) on September 8 members voted unanimously in favour of accepting a new constitution, which means WGGA will now trade as Australian Vignerons (AV).

The name change is good news. WGGA was too public service. AV is more appropriate.

The media release says it implies a holistic approach. I hope this works. There is too wide a gap between growers and producers, and, in their different ways, they’re as guilty as each other. Funding is an issue for AV to work out. It needs money. The trouble I see is that the return will be long term, and those paying need to understand and accept that grape prices will not double next vintage. Would I like to be wrong on that statement.

I wish Andrew Weeks, the executive director of WGGA (soon to be AV), all the best and karma for the future.

Keep focused and seek wise counsel this coming week.


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