Australian consumers are reasonably patriotic in their wine choices, with 82 per cent of wine consumed in Australia coming from Australian wine brands.
However, wine imports from international competitors are on the rise. The volume of imported wine entering Australia hit 100 million litres for the first time in 2018–19.
There has been steady growth in wine imported by Australia over the past 20 years, growing by a compound annual rate of 7 per cent over the period as illustrated in Figure 1.
However, this doesn’t mean that Australian wine brands are losing out, the volume of Australian wine exported grew by the same rate over the same period. And in 2018–19, Australia exported eight-times as much wine as it imported.
Figure 1: Volume of wine imported to Australia (million litres)
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics
New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc leading imports, but has fallen from its peak
In 2018–19, Australia imported wine from 53 countries, with the top 5 accounting for 95 per cent of the volume (see Figure 2).
Given the popularity of Sauvignon Blanc among Australian wine consumers, it is no surprise that in 2018–19, 56 per cent of wine imported to Australia was from New Zealand.
Over the past 20 years, the volume of New Zealand imports to Australia grew from 2.7 million litres to 56.5 million litres. However, the volume of New Zealand imports has fallen after peaking at 58.9 litres in 2016–17.
This is consistent with research that indicates that while it remains the biggest selling category, the popularity of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc among Australian consumers may have peaked. IRI Liquor MarketEdge shows that in 2017–18 and 2018–19, sales of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc in the Australian off-trade market declined by 3 per cent in each year. Furthermore, Wine Intelligence research shows that the percentage of Australian wine consumers drinking Sauvignon Blanc fell from 65 per cent in 2011 to 56 per cent in 2019.
Figure 2: Volume of wine imported to Australia by country, 2018–19
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics
Red wine the main driver of growth for French imports
In 2018–19, the volume of wine imported to Australia increased by 4 per cent. Driving this growth were imports from France and Italy.
Exports from France grew by 10 per cent to a record 20 million litres. Red wine was the main driver in the growth in French imports, with volume up 16 per cent to 7.5 million litres. French sparkling wine imports also grew, up 4 per cent to 8.8 million litres. Research from Wine Intelligence shows that while 76 per cent of regular Australian wine drinkers were aware of French wine in 2019, only 24 per cent had purchased French wines in the previous 3 months. Bordeaux is the best-known French region (56 per cent awareness) just ahead of Champagne (55 per cent) but Champagne has a higher purchase rate (7 per cent versus 5 per cent).
Popularity of Prosecco fueling growth for Italian imports
Exports from Italy grew by 11 per cent to 13.6 million litres driven by growth in sparkling wine (up 17 per cent) and red wine (up 9 per cent).
The growth in Italian sparkling is fueled by the increasing popularity of Prosecco in Australia. According to IRI Liquor MarketEdge, the sales volume of Prosecco in the Australian off-trade market increased by 39 per cent in 2018–19 with Italian Prosecco increasing by 16 per cent. Italian Prosecco accounted for a 29 per cent market share, behind Prosecco from Australia’s King Valley with a 41 per cent share.
According to Wine Intelligence, the awareness and purchase conversion of Italian wines is similar to that of France, with 72 per cent of regular Australian wine drinkers being aware of Italian wine and 21 per cent purchasing in the previous 3 months. No Italian regions were among the top 15 regions for awareness among Australian wine drinkers.
Of the other countries in the top five, imports from Spain declined by 3 per cent to 3.2 million litres and from Portugal increased by 26 per cent to 1.2 million litres.
 International Wine and Spirit Record (IWSR), 2018