Australian wine sales buoyant as interest in regionality grows

Australia cemented its status as the UK’s number one wine supply country by growing sales 1.5% to £1.7 billion in 2017 (Nielsen).

The Australian wine industry descended upon London for the annual Australia Day tasting on January 23 and producers were buoyed by the performance. 

Volume sales fell 3% as value rose, suggesting the push towards more premium offerings is paying dividends for retailers and suppliers. 

DRN spoke to various producers to get their take on the UK market and found them undeterred by the Brexit vote, exchange rate issues and rival interest from China.

One firm keen to make waves in the UK once again is Brown Brothers, formerly one of the biggest players in the market before sales dwindled. 

Winemaker and family member Katherine Brown told DRN: “We are trying to relaunch a bit in the UK. We went through a big transformation over the last decade, from having our own team to going to PLB – which didn’t work for us – and then to Fells. 

“Fells has a focus on family businesses and the group it has [in the portfolio] is fantastic, so hopefully we can rebuild our brand among the UK trade and consumers over the next 10 years and get back to where we were. 

“We want people to understand we are still making very good quality wine. The UK consumer doesn’t just want cheap, bulk Australian wine anymore. If that trend keeps going, hopefully we can grow with it. We have diversified into different regions and we now have a range of brands in our stable. We are excited about rebuilding in the UK.”

Retailers have predicted the trend for quality Australian wine exciting UK shoppers is set to continue. Matt Hennings, owner of four-strong Sussex chain Hennings Wine, said: “We used to love Australia. We started doing a lot of Australian wine in the 1980s, quite early on when Penfolds and Rosemount and all those guys were getting to the market and it was very affordable, and we did really well with it. A lot of people did in the 1980s and early 1990s. 

“Then in the 1990s, when things started to go a bit pear-shaped with the style, it crashed off, and with South America and other places coming through it became much less important. 

“But it is becoming more relevant again now. My impression of the country has been enhanced and there are enough quality wines that are suitable for independents.

“It’s a very competitive space that Australian wines occupy and with a very traditional business like ours, with a leaning towards European wines, it has to earn its keep, but I see no reason why it shouldn’t.”

Corks Out owner Ruth Yates added: “The Australians have changed a lot in the past decade by really seeking out those cooler regions. There’s a lot going for Australia, especially regions such as King Valley and Canberra that have a point of difference and a cooler climate. 

“It’s still a sleeping giant and the potential is huge. It’s got everything: great topography, that terroir, that climate, that diversity between the regions, the grape varieties it can grow and a lot of great winemakers.”

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