In two weeks’ time, Australian producers and distributors will be hitting the road for the Australia Trade Tastings in London, Edinburgh and Dublin. Running for over 30 years, this annual roadshow has become the biggest, brightest and most diverse showcase of Australian wine in Europe.
Australian wine in the UK
When the first Australia Trade Tasting took place in 1986, exports of Australian wine to the UK totalled 85,000 cases. Last year, exports to the UK reached a record 27 million cases. Despite some ups and downs over the years, Australian wine has always held a strong position in the UK market.
Now into 2019, there can be no denying that there is uncertainty and challenging conditions ahead as Brexit approaches. In the second half of 2016, after the Referendum, there was a slowdown, however exports are recovering and the outlook isn’t as bleak as some of the headlines have us believe. In fact, by continuing to work closely with the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA), the World Wine Trade Group (WWTG) and Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), Australian wine’s future in the UK could be even brighter than its past.
Our latest export figures show that Australian wine exports to the UK increased by 9% in value to $380 million and 6% in volume to 239 million litres in the 12 months to September 2018. Whilst this growth is driven mainly by the larger brands packaging in the UK for distribution across Europe, we are seeing positive signs in the UK.
Australia continues to be the most popular country of origin in the off-trade, with 23% market share and 3% growth by value. Particularly encouraging is the growth at higher price points: double-digit growth in the off-trade at all price points between £7 and £20. The trend towards premiumisation continues as more engaged consumers look to trade up, especially in independent retail and in the premium on-trade. The export figures also show growth across a wide range of grape varieties including Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris.
Australian wine in the UK: The Wine Society’s view
Explore the new
Unless you’re planning a trip to Australia, the annual trade tasting is the best way to get up-to-date with the category, meet producers and explore the new: new vintages, new releases and new styles. Some of the wineries at the event may be familiar names, but others will be new discoveries. This year, a number of producers will be exhibiting for the very first time. An indication that, despite the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, it is business as normal for many producers and there’s even an air of opportunity in the market.
First-time ATT exhibitors include:
Silkman Wines – London, Edinburgh, Dublin Seeking distribution
Owned and operated by local winemaking couple Shaun and Liz Silkman, Silkman Wines showcase the unique characteristics of both the Hunter Valley and individual vineyards. Don’t miss their Shiraz Pinot Noir blend and find out why this old Hunter tradition is making a comeback.
Kirrihill Wines – London, Edinburgh, Dublin Seeking distribution
Showcasing cool climate styles from the Clare Valley, the Kirrihill winemaking philosophy is to let nature determine the wine and allow regional diversity to shine. As well as Riesling, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, the range includes alternative varieties such as Montepulciano and Nero d'Avola.
Levantine Hill – London, Edinburgh, Dublin Seeking distribution
With a vineyard on one of the highest hills in the Yarra Valley and a second on the banks of the Yarra River, this family-owned estate produces fresh, elegant and perfumed wines. Looking for something a bit different? Try the Mélange Traditionnel Blanc, a Sauvignon Blanc- Semillon-Viognier blend.
Sir Ian Botham Wines – London and Dublin Distributed by Benchmark Drinks
Put the former England cricketer’s new Australian wines to the test. Launched in July 2017, this new range showcases some of the country’s hero regions and styles, such as Margaret River Chardonnay, Barossa Shiraz and Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon.
Patritti – London and Dublin Distributed in the UK by Wine Rascals
Third generation family member James Mungall and winemaker Ben Heide craft traditional and alternative varietal wines from the Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale and Adelaide Hills. Their ATT line-up includes cool climate Chardonnay, old vine Grenache, Sparkling Shiraz and fortified Tawny.
Barristers Block – London Seeking distribution
Compare and contrast cool climate pristine Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir with warmer climate elegant Wrattonbully Shiraz. UK trade will also be able to taste three sparkling wines, including Legally Red Sparkling Shiraz - a rich, textured single-vineyard fizz.
Tim Smith Wines – London Seeking distribution
Meet winemaker Tim Smith and find out why he’s drawn to Rhône varieties Grenache, Shiraz, Mataro and Viognier in the Barossa. Starting with his first vintage in 2002, Tim’s wines are made from small select parcels of fruit, some from vines that are 130 years old.
On the grapevine
There have been a lot of accolades for Australian wine over the last year in the UK. Feedback from trade and media that visited Australia or attended events has been excellent, proving that perceptions are being challenged and Australia is increasingly being recognised as a fine wine producer.
Joe Fattorini said after his trip in June “you’ve blown me away with the transformation of Australia and its wine scene”. Likewise, Tamlyn Currin summed up her first trip to Australia on JancisRobinson.com in November “Australia – the tiny fraction I saw – took my (mis)conceptions and splintered them into amazement.”
Following our Off the Vine tasting in September 2018, wine and food writer Fiona Beckett said “when I first started writing about wine in the early 90s there was an incredible buzz about Australian wine…I felt that kind of excitement again with a whole raft of new styles and grape varieties. You feel it’s undergoing a new revolution - there seems a real energy at the moment in the Aussie wine scene.” This sentiment was echoed by Decanter’s Julie Sheppard “Australia has the most dynamic wine scene in the world right now”.
Julia Lambeth’s voyage of discovery
Online and in retail
In the UK, all eyes were on Australia in September 2018. In the same week as the Off the Vine tasting, Mel Brown launched The Australian Cellar. This specialist online wine shop, with a list of over 250 Australian wines from 77 producers, has got off to a roaring start. Supported by a busy programme of events, pop-ups and tastings, the focus is on premium wines, showcasing diversity and challenging perceptions. Mel says “it’s clear that Australia is going through one of the most exciting, enticing and edgiest moments in its wine history.”
Mel Brown, The Australian Cellar
Australia continues to excel at The Vinorium, based in Kent. Awarded IWC Australian Specialist of the Year and Decanter Best Australian Specialist 2018, the retail store houses 55,000 bottles with around 40,000 dedicated to Australia, whilst 98% of all orders received are for Australian wine. As well as a comprehensive list and large formats (magnums and upwards), The Vinorium is recognised as one of the largest stockists of mature Australian wines outside of Australia. 2018 was an extremely busy year for founder Stuart McCloskey: The Vinorium sold more than 100,000 bottles of Australian wine and received orders from nearly 5100 online customers.
The Australian outlook
The Aussies will be back in force for the annual tastings in London (22 January), Edinburgh (28 January) and Dublin (30 January). In addition to the ATT first-timers, there will be familiar faces that are committed to the UK market. Winemaker Giles Cooke MW, returning to pour the wines of Thistledown and Wild & Wilder, says “the current market is more buoyant than I have seen it for a long time.” Similarly, Rory Lane of The Story Wines is back for another visit, saying “the UK is a key market and, especially for a small producer like us, it’s vital to come over and meet the trade.”
Giles Cooke MW
The list of attending Aussies confirmed so far includes Ed Carr (House of Arras), Chris Thomas (Dowie Doole), Tim Smith (Tim Smith Wines), Bob Berton (Berton Vineyards), Inga Lidums (Lobethal Road Wines), Troy Jones (Payten & Jones), James Foley (Australian Vintage) and Scott McWilliam (McWilliams Family Wines).
To get up-to-date with the Australian category, meet producers and explore the new, sign up for the Australia Trade Tastings now.
London – 22 January
B1, Southampton Row, London, WC1B 4DA
Edinburgh – 28 January
The Balmoral Hotel, Princes Street, Edinburgh, EH2 2EQ
Dublin – 30 January
The Round Room, The Mansion House, 2 Dawson Street, Dublin
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