By James Wells

Wine Australia has revealed that the Chinese wine market has now taken over the US wine market in total turnover after a 66 per cent rise over the last year.

Wine Australia general manager of marketing, Stuart Barclay, told TheShout that the 66 per cent growth in the Chinese market represented both volume and value sales.

“The Chinese market is still very strong, and when you combine this with the Hong Kong market it is worth over $500 million. The growth is coming from across China at lots of different price points, including very strong growth for sales above $10," Barclay said.

“By comparison, the US market is one of our toughest markets. This used to be a $1 billion market and we are now doing around $440 million.

“The decline in the US has resulted from the combination of very high foreign exchange rates and perception issues that hit us back in 2007-8 with the high Robert Parker score wines. Now what we are seeing there again is a change in perception kicking through. We are seeing the regionality angle coming through, things like cool climate messages playing through and we have had very good resonance from the sommelier groups visiting out of the US.

“We recently had the sommelier scavenger hunt and we brought out 12 sommeliers out from the US and immersed them in the regions. The take-outs from this were that Hunter Valley Semillon and McLaren Vale Grenache stood out. It wasn’t some of the bigger traditional wines that they liked, it was wines with a nuance – such as cool climate or different perception. We are seeing a lot more movement in that sector but it is still early days. 

“We need to spend a lot more time working in the US market, getting more people back into the market and we have our market entry program which is helping wineries to get back into the distribution channels over there.”


Barclay added that Wine Australia will also be conducting a number of marketing activities throughout Asia in order to build the profile of Australian wine.

“In Asia Pacific, we will be conducting activities in Korea, Taiwan, Tokyo, as well as a lot more activities in Hong Kong and Singapore,” he told TheShout. “We are always looking at new emerging markets and trying to find the right market to move into, whether that is The Philippines, Indonesia or Thailand and so we are always looking at those markets and seeing what we can do.

“We work incredibly well with Austrade and we have developed a collaboration agreement where we come together as two organisations, but we work in synergy and that strengthens the Australian message.”

The collaborative work that Wine Australia has already done in China is paying dividends and Barclay is confident this long-term focus will also pay off in other regions.

He added: “What Tourism Australia have done in the tourism space, and wine tourism in particular is really starting to develop some resonance, particularly with our Chinese tourists. We work very closely with Tourism Australia and we are embedded into the Tourism Australia offices in Shanghai, London and Sydney and there is more we will do in that space. There are some exciting activities coming out in the next few months that will cement the whole Australian wine, food and tourism angle. 

“Every market there is a nuance, there is a lot of interesting differences in terms of cultural diversity in the Asian market, so you have to go in with an open mind, it may take longer to do the deal, but that is natural in those markets. So think about Korean market or the Japanese market or wherever it is and don’t expect to do business overnight – it is long term activity, it’s about building and developing relationships. Around three to five years is a sensible time frame.”

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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