By Amy Looker

Australian chardonnay received a morale boost this week, when Foster’s Group gathered together a panel of wine experts, producers and retailers to discuss the decline of Australia’s most widely-planted grape variety.

A number of strategies to improve chardonnay’s image in the eyes and palates of consumers, who are increasingly turning to NZ sauvignon blanc, were discussed.

The chardonnay category is currently declining at 7.1 percent, while sauvignon blanc is growing at a rate of 35.9 percent, with NZ labels snapping up 70 percent of all sauvignon blanc sales in Australia.

Penfold’s global marketing director, Sandy Mayo, said chardonnay’s problem lies in consumer perception of what chardonnay should taste like, with many thinking that it’s still the same as the buttery, overly-oaked chardonnays that were all the rage in the 1980s and 90s.

“Consumers perceive chardonnay to taste heavy and oaky and they think they don’t like it,” she said.

“They didn’t like what it was eight or ten years ago and they haven’t tried it since. Chardonnay has changed but the consumer doesn’t know that. The conservative packaging of the majority of chardonnays reinforces these taste perceptions.”

Mayo said that addressing packaging issues and making it simpler to shop for chardonnay would make it easier to win back lapsed chardonnay drinkers.

The increase in production of un-oaked chardonnay is another key factor that could sway sauvignon blanc drinkers back to the chardonnay category.

“According to sensory research that Foster’s undertook on 185 consumers, sauvignon blanc drinkers liked low or un-oaked chardonnay as much or more than they liked sauvignon blanc, with 30 per cent of consumers thinking the un-oaked chardonnay actually was a sauvignon blanc,” said Mayo.

Foster’s newly appointed managing director for it’s wine portfolio, David Dearie, said that chardonnay could shake off its tarnished image if the industry worked together to inform the consumer.

“These are great wines and we need to get them to the consumer. We have to work together as an industry to reinvent chardonnay,” he said.

The Shout Team

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

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *