By James Atkinson
The Australian wine industry is losing ground to other wine producing countries because it doesn't have its own wine trade fair, according to Chuck Hayward, one of North America's leading authorities on Australian wine.
At Friday's WCA Sydney Royal Wine Show Awards lunch, Hayward said Australian wine is out of favour in the United States because the Australian industry has not done a good enough job at marketing itself to the American trade and consumers.
While rival countries are communicating their stories directly by flying the gatekeepers to their vineyards and their wineries, Hayward said Australian wine in the American market is being defined by the opinions of wine writers like Robert Parker.
"The latest countries that are seeing Americans – Romania, Turkey, Georgia – these are the countries that are devoting energy and attention away from the Australian wine market," said Hayward, who was the international guest judge at the Sydney Royal Wine Show this month.
"They are also holding trade fairs and conferences where you can look at a host of wineries in one second," he said.
"Australia is sorely lacking in that department."
Hayward said it is imperative that concerns about politics and finances are pushed aside and that the Australian wine industry summons up the will to organise a regularly scheduled trade event.
"It gets people to your shores and allows you to communicate your messages directly and effectively," he said.
WCA chair Angie Bradbury said Hayward's comments were timely, given Wine Australia's recent announcement that Savour Australia 2013, the first ever global Australian wine forum, will be held in September.
Region-based marketing is crucial
Hayward also said it was time to evolve Australia's wine marketing effort beyond a generic countrywide campaign.
"Each region must control their own message. They are the most effective managers of the ideas and content that they want to communicate to consumers and industry," he said.
"The messages Tasmania must communicate to the market are quite different than what the Hunter Valley needs to convey… Australia would be well served to provide these associations with the organisational and financial support necessary to enhance their efforts," said Hayward.