By James Wells

The London International Wine Fair has provided a succinct snapshot for Australian wine exports in the UK – fewer opportunities for big players, more for smaller wholesalers, independents and mail-order business models.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Wine Australia’s participation at the show and, according to chairman Paul Henry, the show provided opportunities for those willing to look outside traditional channels.

“Everyone is trying to remain positive. I think people are very mindful of the challenges at retail and it depends on the size or shape of the company,” he said.

“The larger brands are more exposed in this market with diminishing options of who they can work with. Having said that, there are second tier companies that have really enjoyed what they describe as a largely commercially active fair – not at a supermarket level, but particularly dealing with wholesalers and independents.

“Compensation from the smaller channels is the overarching story from the show. I am not suggesting that this will be enough if you have large scale or major volume brands – they are still going to find it pretty tough,” he said.

Henry added that the stand attracted a number of important buyers, including retailers such as Sainsburys and DirectWines, which also represents the wine club from the Sunday Times newspaper.

“These are people who we have not previously been engaged with and that is where the answer lies for a show like this – building relationships with retailers and specialists,” he said.

Another trend from the event Henry noted was the appearance of more mail-order retailing rather than growth of ‘big box’ or large footprint retail players.

Henry identified the announcement of the Matthew Jukes Top 100 Australian wine list as a feature event for the Wine Australia stand at the event.

“It was the fifth Matthew Jukes list that has taken place and it was the best attended yet, with 400 people from press and trade which is extremely positive. There were a number of key journalists on the stand including Anthony Rose from The Independent,” he said.

“The single take out for me is that Wine Australia has to work with our own stakeholders and communities and build activities and leverage off this investment in particular markets. I can see the traditional Wine Australia marketing activity in a market like the UK migrating from those typically around Australia Day and combining at an event such as the London International Wine Fair to capitalise on the number of people in the market and maximise competitive advantage.”

“Everyone is engaged with an ever-shrinking number of buyers and Australian [wines] stand out with character and personality. We require a renewed energy and dynamism and level of interest to attract our target audience of buyers and media. This has been recently lost in the dialogue in favour of pouring resources in to hitting price, and we now realise that’s not enough,” he said.

A number of Australian wineries also conducted brand portfolio tastings and regional flights at the fair. They included Heartland Wines & Glaetzer Wines, Mountadam, Hayshed Hill & Pitchfork Wine, Plunkett Fowles – Strathbogie Ranges, McPherson Wines, Ceravolo, Kingston Estate, Westend Estate, while Steve Webber from De Bortoli, Gordon Gebbie from Rathbone Wine Group and Phil Sexton from Giant Steps were also on the stand representing the Yarra Valley.

Also joining the Australian contingency was O-I, the world’s largest glass bottle producer, to unveil their new lightweight glass packaging following research and development over the last two years representing an investment of over $6.5 million.

The Shout Team

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

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