The Buyer
Australian Vintners on championing the best Aussie wines in the UK

Australian Vintners on championing the best Aussie wines in the UK

“Ben Harvey and Paul Bartram’s aim is simple – bring to the fore, small, predominantly family owned and run vineyards and put them on the dining room table of UK consumers.” It’s also the top line business strategy of Australian Vintners, a new UK wine importer specialising in all things Australia. Providing they are good to drink. Andrew Lofthouse, aka The Northern Wine Guy, sits down with them to get their full Aussie vision.

When I think of Australia, I think of days spent sat in the sun soaked crystal waters, the ‘slip, slop, slap’ adverts for sun cream application, the battering we often take during an Ashes year, an abundance of wildlife both on land and sea, and of course the sign outside bars that says ‘No thongs to be worn’ (meaning no flip flops, if you were unsure).

However, within the wine world, it was also very synonymous with big, bold and full of attitude, high percentage alcoholic wines. Those exuberant spicy Shiraz red wines that epitomised the phrase full bodied, the Chardonnays that were arguably over oaked and brash (although I was partial to at least one or two).

Ben Harvey and Paul Bartram want to bring exciting independent family producers and their wines to the UK

Yet there is a changing of the guard. In truth, there has been for some time but only now is it being showcased further to wider audiences outside of those in the know. Australian wines are far from one dimensional and Australian Vintners Ltd are the newest advocates willing to import outstanding quality wines to the UK.

Australian Vintners Ltd has been created by two finance career professionals – Ben Harvey and Paul Bartram - looking to flick the script and with the aid of Harvey’s deeply rooted family connections in the Barossa Valley, dating back seven generations, change UK public perceptions along the way.

Harvey and Bartram’s aim is simple – bring to the fore, small, predominantly family owned and run vineyards and put them on the dining room table of UK consumers.

They want to give UK wine enthusiasts the chance to taste the same kind of wines that wine lovers in Australia can. To get away from the over saturated mass market Australian wine category and open it up to new faces, producers and wines.

Harvey and Bartram - Australia's new wine duo in the UK

Bartram says: "There are, of course, many generic low cost priced Australian wines readily available. At the other end of the scale there are the fine wine houses that focus on the well known names like Penfolds, but our target market is the £15 to £50 range with exclusive access to wine producers that just do not exist currently."

One such example is the wine producer, Sawyer, which sits in the Adelaide Hills region, the extra altitude ensuring that the wine holds acidity, is elegant in style and with a fruit driven profile Bartram believes not seen before in any great size to date.

Starting out

Australian Vintners held its grand opening last month in London, opening up bottles and outlining its wine producing champions to a private party list, which was extremely well received. Its aim is to look at selling in the region of 24,000 bottles in its first year – all hand selected, with no limits on the number of wines or wineries to be used in its initial campaign that is looking to target both online consumers and on-trade.

House of Arras' wines are now available through Australian Vintners

Harvey and Bartram’s ethos is very much around tasting and hand selecting before taking on a new wine. Producers who have just been added to their increasing portfolio are RedHeads, Oakdene and House of Arras - each with extremely impressive reputations.

"We will always look for flavour profile first and foremost and we have been very lucky to be introduced to incredible winemakers," says Harvey.

Bartram adds: "Our aim will always be to continue to add to our stable of wines, without ever compromising on quality. We want the consumer to trust us. We want the name Australian Vintners to be synonymous with amazing, reasonably priced wines."

An example of the demand that is out there was the response to one of its first additions, 50 cases of 2010 Mosquito Hill Pinot Noir which quickly sold out online at £37 a bottle. A price that compares favourably against a Premier Cru of its age in Burgundy.

Both believe there is a big opportunity to put to bed, once and for all, those who think Australian wines are one trick ponies. To show there is real value to be had if you are prepared to spend that little bit more than the Australian wines you find in supermarkets.

In fact they have found it harder to find the administrative help needed for a start up wine business than they have customer demand for their wines. Couple that with some delays in delivery and increased shipment costings, thanks to the developments in the Middle East over the past year, and you could be fooled into thinking this would slow their progress.

Yet this is not the case. Australian Vintners is very much here to stay. Its ever increasing portfolio of independent and small orientated wine producers are creating waves in the UK market. It may not be quite Torquay, Victoria and the World’s Surfing Championships standard just yet, but watch this space.

A final thought goes to Harvey who says: "We are focused on branding and on building the message and our identity over the next 12 months which we believe will then give us a real edge. But most importantly we want to do so with a real focus on having some fun too."

* You can find out more about Australian Vintners at its website here.