By James Atkinson

The new executive team of McWilliam's Wines is refocusing the company on a simplified portfolio featuring more wines that command higher price points, according to CEO Rob Blackwell.

Blackwell, who joined McWilliam's 16 months ago, spoke exclusively to TheShout following a recent tasting by media of 21 wines from across the company's expansive regional portfolio.

He said it was telling that the majority of wines the company had chosen to showcase were priced around the $30 to $40 mark.

Blackwell said this continues the evolution of McWilliam's, which after starting out as a maker of fortified wines, produced a large proportion of its table wines under the $10 price point.

"We are trying to move our brand architecture up and produce more quality wines against the $30 and $40 price points," he said.

"We're also trying to create some unique on-premise wines as well – a lot of our direction is trying to create wines specific to channels." 

Blackwell said this meant the creation of a differentiated wine portfolio for on-premise accounts, national retail outlets and the various cellar doors.

He said another initiative of the executive team, five out of seven of whom have joined the business in the last 12 months, is to create a simplified portfolio that is headed around regionality.

He said McWilliam's has historically had "a lot of brands and a lot of SKUs" that have proven difficult for consumers to navigate. 

Further details will be revealed soon on the streamlined portfolio, which Blackwell said will also include more contemporary labels on some SKUs.

"We've probably left a lot of the younger generations behind. If you're going along to a dinner party, you're probably not going to pick one of our lower end value wines, because they don't look modern enough."

"It's very competitive out there now, we want to make sure we've got the right shelf presence."

The Shout Team

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

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  1. Hi Mr Blackwell, Our family has always maintained that the McWilliams brand should stay as such and tradition cannot be bought but is earnt thru years of devotion to quality, withstanding some of Australia’s huge economic ups and downs! I think you underestimate the younger set as you call it and with organics and traditional values really lacking we look to wines that have stood the test of time and still give the quality we expect from this brand. I say bring back the good old staples of Sherries and port and the good old Friar Tuck! and if you dont remember this fellow then you should not be leading the company! Lets throw the Reeboks out the window and get those trusty old sandals back to trudge our way back to the top and with smart marketing or ….some marketing the company should have good stead for the future!!! I have watched 2 x wine shows on ABC recently regarding the Australian wine industry and McWilliams failed to even bring a mention……. As custodians of this company we have seen a heap of staff come and go and not much done for the company!!!

  2. Hello Mr. Blackwell,
    I totally agree with this move and will look out for your move to include Premium/Luxury wines.
    I look forward to a revamp of your labelling too, current very ordinary compared to Simonsig (their dessert wines are divine) and Wolf Blass.

    Good luck,

    Gail Abrahams

  3. Today’s industry is pretty tough going and many wine businesses are having to innovate or die. Rob has had no choice to slice and dice to ensure our best foot is put forward. Simply sticking to your guns or relying on old marketing angles is wrong. Certainly have a go at bringing back the Friar, but do it with a contemporary twist which will engage all generations of drinkers. Bring back Port and Sherry… whom? A dying market sadly.

  4. I like to serve a variety of fortified wines when the occassion suits. I am generous with the wines, and, choose the glasses to suit the food and guests.
    With real crusty bread and aged good cheeses or tasty cold meats a larger glass is the way to go.
    At times you still want the traditional “sherry” glass. The only place I have been able to buy replacement sherry glasses has been in Second hand shops. Some designs very similar my Grandmother had; Austrian imports.
    When the snobs do not see the McWilliam Flagon behind the bar they always ask for more.
    McWilliams Fortified wines do have a place next to my iron bound reds.
    Going back fifty years, I do remember Hunting and Fishing trips with ice on the ground, stopping for a breakfast bread cheese and cold meats and my uncle pouring a splash of McWilliams in a cup.
    My Mother always welcomed quests by serving them a glass of sweet McWilliams sherry, in fine cut crystal glasses.
    I still love the touch of the McWilliams glass Flagons. Even when I am not going to buy any on the day, I still touch them as I walk through the wine shop.

    When we were poorer but richer with friends, wine was always bought in Flagons. We thought the bottles were for people without friends or relatives, who did not dance or laugh.

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