First-class Australian wineries have felt the loss of demand in traditional British and American markets. However, as Chinese tastes for fine wines continue to heighten, Australian wineries have an opportunity to win over Chinese buyers. China’s wine imports have increased 61 percent from last year, now accounting for over $1 billion. So far, Australia vintners have been successful in securing a part of the new market, and increased creativity will make their efforts all the sweeter.
This year, Wine Australia, the Australian government’s industry marketing body, brought 100 wine importers, retailers and restaurateurs from China and sent them to 16 wineries across Australia. The wine ambassadors learned first-hand about regional wines and the intricacies of winemaking.
“It was an educational, lifestyle trip. They go back and share that experience about the country and the wine,” said Lucy Anderson, Hong-Kong based director for Asia at Wine Australia.
One family-owned winery, Bird in Hand, has launched cellar doors in Dalian and Yingkou. The properties, both in Laioning province, were replicated from the company’s Woodside Winery in the Adelaide Hills.
“Cellar doors are a new concept in those areas. China is the fastest-growing market for ultra-premium wine and it has got some terrific trends in growing consumption,” says Bird in Hand global sales director Justin Nugent.
Penfolds, a brand under Treasury Wine, produces what is widely considered Australia’s best wine: Penfolds Grange Hermitage, which sells for more than $550 per bottle. In November, Penfolds will launch a new wine in the same price range, Bin 620, in Shanghai.
“We have never done a global launch like this outside of Australia before,” says Penfolds’ global brand manager, Sandy Mayo. China has become the biggest market for Australian wine priced at more than $9.95 per liter, almost equaling the import totals of the U.S. and UK markets combined.
“Australian wines are gaining more and more popularity as they are mostly full of fruit and soft flavors and there is a lot of ‘flavour for your money’ as we say,” said Espen Harbitz, who runs the Australian-owned restaurant Capital M in Beijing.
France, who pioneered the first efforts in the 1980s to boost China’s imported wines consumption, still dominates the market. “As far as brands go, there is a clear dominance of French Bordeaux. But the reality is that most people cannot afford premium Bordeaux and this is when they will try a variety of other options,” Harbitz said.
All eyes, however, remain on what marketing tactics Australia will employ in China next. “If Treasury gets China and Asia right, the upside potential is huge,” said City Index analyst Peter Esho.
photo credit: penfolds