By Christine Salins

Chris O’Brien (pictured) is not sure if it’s a good or a bad thing but the general manager of Liquor Barons says Western Australia is a very parochial market. The retail banner group represents almost 60 WA stores and, according to O’Brien, around 44 per cent of their sales are Western Australian wine. 

“Most of the demand is driven by a perception of quality,” he said. “The standard consumer who makes up 90 per cent of our sales is still really risk averse. Western Australian wine is viewed as a safe option and even more so, Margaret River. It’s instantly viewed as quality.”

Although most of the growth in the WA industry was in the $15 to $20 segment, the great imbalance of supply and demand eight to 10 years ago had opened up the $12 to $15 price bracket to WA wines, with Margaret River labels doing particularly well in this bracket. These were mostly private labels or buyers’ own brands, picking up surplus production.

“There’s an element of consumer seeking to consume less and better quality wine but there’s also a consumer out there seeking better value,” O’Brien said. “We’ve created more occasions when a Western Australian wine is acceptable.”

Swan Valley, Western Australia’s oldest and Australia’s second oldest wine region, had benefited from the demand for WA wine at all price points. The region’s Chenin-based blends were making a comeback, along with Shiraz and Grenache in the under-$10 bracket.

O’Brien said the resurgence in Swan Valley wines was largely driven by tourism, as visitors discovered wonderful wines being produced by Mandoon Estate and Oakover Estate, among others. Based on this increased demand, Liquor Barons has increased the number of Swan Valley wines in its stores.

"Yet consistency of value is also important in higher price brackets", O’Brien said, "with a growing number of people prepared to spend $30 or more on a quality bottle of wine. This is particularly so for Margaret River, which has “gone from strength to strength with Cabernet and Chardonnay particularly. The last half-average vintage in Margaret River was in 2006 and even it wasn’t that bad.”

Super premium Western Australian wine – “the handful of genuine world-class wines that come out of Margaret River and to a lesser extent Great Southern, wines like Leeuwin Estate, Moss Wood and Cullen” – are also performing strongly, with a growing number of exports and “acceptance on a world scale”.

O’Brien reminds retailers and consumers not to overlook the Great Southern region.

“Great Southern is producing some absolutely wonderful wines. Shiraz is fantastic in a cool climate style. I’m impressed by the Chardonnay – Castelli is exceptional. The Howard Park range is stunning in terms of its structure and intensity.”

For the full article on the Western Australian wine region see the May issue of National Liquor News.

The Shout Team

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

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