If you want to know where you stand in the buying hierarchy of the on-trade then if you have not received an invite from Wine Australia to attend one of its specialist tastings then you might want to consider another career, for you are very much in their sights as Laura Jewell, head of Wine Australia UK and Europe, explains to The Buyer.
At times it must be frustrating being an Australian winemaker. Not only does it take you the best part of 24 hours or more to go and visit the countries and the markets that sell most of your wine, when you get there even the most influential buyers still think you are making the same wine you were 10 years ago.
The world may have become an increasingly smaller place, particularly in the way news and trends can spread across the globe. But not when it comes to misplaced perceptions about the kind of wine you are making.
For it seems no matter how hard the Australian wine community tries to tell the world it has listened, learned and is now making very different types of wine in every region on the country, it is still beaten down with the same criticisms. Too much oak, too much flavour, too much alcohol, too much everything.
Australia may still be the number one best selling wine in the UK, but the majority of those sales are driven by Australian wines being the first names on the list when it comes to working out the next big retail promotion.
It is one thing being number one in a market. It is another if your image is closer to Kylie Minogue than a discerning, interesting Nick Cave.
One of the key people tasked in changing these perceptions is Laura Jewell MW, head of Wine Austrralia for UK and Europe. Someone perfectly placed to know both the challenges and opportunities that Australia faces having come straight from the promotional hot house of the Tesco wine department, where Australia was largely seen more as a foot fall rather than palate driver.
But in her new role, she has very different objectives.
The message that Australia has changed, and changed for the good, may not have reached all the discerning elements of the wine trade, but that does not mean it is not the right message to keep pushing.
Jewell’s challenge is 100% in tune with the mid to premium Australian wine industry. To push education and better understanding of its wines through the trade and then, hopefully, on to the consumer.
Firmly on the target list are sommeliers and the key on-trade buyers. Both from the supplier and operator side of the fence.
“It has to be about trade education first,” Jewell told The Buyer. “If we can enthuse the buyers and sellers we then have a better chance of getting through to consumers.”
Wine Australia has certainly set its stall out hosting a series of some of the most creative, focused and exclusive tastings staged for Australian wine anywhere in the world with its on-going series both in London and across the UK. Be it exploring alternative varietals or wines made from old vines, it is doing what it can to give the trade the chance to taste the cutting edge wines it wants to promote coming out of Australia.
But it is one thing putting on a tasting, it is very much another getting the key buyers to attend.
It is also why Wine Australia is taking the message to key businesses, retailers, and targeted on-trade groups and restaurants with in-house training direct with key members of staff.
“It is a great way for us to be able to tell our story about Australia direct to the people who will be selling it,” added Jewell.
It is backing this training up with staff incentive programmes to help push the message further.
Wine Australia is also working much closer with the key regional bodies, be it Tasmania or Mornington Peninsula, to put on bespoke tastings and events that champion and help explain their wines better.
It is to hold three pop-up tastings at next week’s London Wine Fair to hopefully shine the spotlight on different styles and regions of the country.
As for the consumer message, Jewell is quite happy to keep that direct approach to the major Australian brands, like Hardy’s, Wolf Blass and McGuigan.
All have noticeably raised their game in the last two years – no doubt on the back of supermarkets demanding more for their numerous listings on their shelves -with extensive, and expensive, above the line promotional campaigns covering TV, billboards, cinema and high profile sports sponsorship like Hardy’s with English cricket and Jacob’s Creek and tennis.
“It is up to the brands to engage with consumers,” said Jewell.
The two approaches might appear poles apart, but then as any bleary eyed Australian winemaker just off the red eye from Sydney would tell you, those are the two opposite worlds they are confronted with once they step outside Heathrow Airport.