By James Wells, reporting from ProWein in Düsseldorf

Four time international winemaker of the year, Neil McGuigan has claimed that the wine industry is at war to win over the hearts and minds of young consumers.

“People don’t understand that the wine industry is in a war – we are in a war against beer, against spirits and against RTDs,” McGuigan said in an exclusive interview at ProWein.

“If we don’t understand that, we’ve got to get to those young adults who are getting into drinking alcoholic beverages and I don’t mind if they have flavoured wine, I don’t mind if they have rosé on the rocks or frosé, as long as we get them into wine in any way and then we can take them on the journey of Shiraz and Cabernet and Merlot and other varietals. So we need to be creative and we need to embrace people – what we must not do is we must not have arrogance about wine, that attitude has got to change. We have got to be embracing people into wine and make them feel comfortable with wine – then we can win.

“Everyone talks about millenials, millenials, millenials. The millenials are no different to any other generation, they want to hear the story, they want to have good quality wine, they want to have good value, but they want to be taken on the journey. Let’s not get too tied up with ‘we have got to do something specific for millenials’, what we have to get tied up in is continuing to tell the story about wine, that’s what people want to hear.”

McGuigan advised against putting average wine in a creatively designed and packaged bottle.

“Don’t do that and think it is going to work. You’ll sell your first bottle – you’ll never sell your second.”

Speaking about the ProWein event, McGuigan said the business received strong feedback following its fourth accolade as the IWSC’s International Winemaker of the Year, late last year.

“For our own business we are being seen as a credible wine producer for the world and that has taken a number of years to achieve. We are seen as a quality Australian brand that can play with the big boys.

“ProWein this year was outstanding for us, we had a lot of meetings. We had five of our staff here working flat-stick. Sunday was busy and Mad Monday was mad and it was a bit slower today (Tuesday). But overall very good quality meetings – all of the quality people are here from around the world and there is a really good feel about Australian wine, not just in the UK.

“The message is people are looking at Australian wine very positively and wanting to pay for Australian wine before they get it. The changes in the Pound have been a great issue, plus also the increases in duty. They realise that the margins were already tight and they are starting to accept that prices have got to go up. The quality of Australian wine has always been well respected but it is clear that people are really getting it now.

“Also in America, you can feel a strong opportunity for Australian wine and that is the first time in a long time. I think the dollar at about 76 cents is a sweet spot and I think that people are saying that the time for Australia has come again – so we have to be clever with the way that we do it but it is going to happen for Australian wine.”

The Shout Team

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

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