By Deborah Jackson, editor National Liquor News
Treasury Wine Estates has announced that iconic wines from regional Australia will form a key part of the next stage of it's global brand strategy.
A second portfolio of wines including regional ‘gems’ from Coldstream Hills, Devil’s Lair, Seppelt, T’Gallant, Heemskerk and Saltram will follow the trajectory established by TWE’s global focus brands; supported by a dedicated team focused exclusively on maximising the potential of these exciting regional 'gems'.
The dedicated team, led by newly appointed regional wines general manager, Christian Sim, will focus exclusively on optimising the sales, marketing and value contribution of these wines. The team will also be supported by an Advisory Panel, which will include TWE CEO Michael Clarke and wine expert, James Halliday AM.
Sim told TheShout: "We made the decision to take these wines, which have been a little bit lost in the shadows over a couple of years while we focused our efforts on getting Penfolds, Wolf Blass and Lindemans going, and now with those brands doing quite well the opportunity arises to go to the next stage and really refocus on some of our more luxury regional brands."
He added: "The success of these brands is going to come from doing things a little bit differently. You have to treat these regional brands with a different outlook and a different strategy to the way you might treat a global super brand such as Penfolds, and that's going to include a lot more flexibility and a strong integration all the way from the vineyards through to sales and marketing and really all the way to getting it on the dining table.
"To do that, we've established a dedicated internal team that are only going to be looking after these brands. They will cover production, marketing, sales and operations, and this team is not going to be focused on any of the other existing TWE brands, only on taking these regional brands and making them great again.
"We kicked off the structure for the team in January and we've only just appointed the people, so it's still fairly early days but the team is now in place and we've already put plans in place for vintage 2016, which as you'll be aware is well underway. We are determined to deliver value growth from our regional gems. Our ambition is to export 50 per cent of our regional gems, and we have increased the Australian vintage intake for these brands by approximately 40 per cent this year to help realise their potential.
"Within Australia, we already have a reasonably broad distribution of some of these brands, I think strategically it's about refocusing our efforts on the brand and not so much the products. We want to tell the story of these brands and we want people to appreciate the fact that some of the Seppelt wines are made in some of the coolest vineyards in all of Australia. We want people to know that Heemskerk is made in some of the most southern vineyards in all of the world and what that brings to the wine, and really tell that story so that people get the interest and understand why they're special and look for those particular characteristics in the wine," said Sim.
"We really want to focus our efforts on striking partnerships with different retailers, and that won't mean that every brand will go everywhere, but what it will mean is that when we partner on these brands, that we do it in the right way, we support it with our winemakers, we support it with education, and support it with a proper investment, so we're trying to grow the category and get more people experiencing and enjoying premium wine.
"We have established a small team that will be able to work quickly and make decisions quickly and centre a lot of those decisions back in the winery and the vineyard, so that's where a lot of the thinking and decision making will happen, but we have this fantastic opportunity to still get the very best out of TWE, the buying power and the back of house and expertise that we have within the broader business, and the hope is that through getting the best of both worlds we really have a strong business model and that will put us in a really strong sustainable place that will allow us to take these wines to the rest of the world and continue to invest in them and make sure that this is the first stage in a long journey of bringing these wines back to their former glory in some cases," said Sim.
Halliday, who has held a consulting role with Coldstream Hills for many years, added: "I really wanted to be a part of this, it's nothing to do with the fact that I've bashed my head against a wall for 20 years or tried to punch clouds for 20 years, it's not me that's done it, but nonetheless this new structure is the answer to our maiden's prayer as far as I'm concerned. It does everything for these nine companies that I've been begging prior ownerships to do. I honourably accept that Mike Clarke has done a fantastic job in a short period of time and has moved on these gems far more quickly than any prior chief executive than I've seen in the past 20 years."
Halliday added: "We've already had a couple of key retailers (from the US and Japan) out to Australia to show them some of these wines and I think one of the most exciting things for me is that this is a real opportunity to showcase Australian brands, and to show them that we've got the diversity but also the quality and heritage. These wines in some cases go back over 150 years, so to show that Australia is more than sunshine in a bottle and big Shiraz, that has been a really good opportunity. The people that we've had out have just been blown away. They used the words 'world class' so many times with respect to our Pinots and our Chardonnays and certainly our fortified wines, that they went back with an reopened mind with respect to Australian wines, and were very enthusiastic about not just putting some of our wines in the Australian category on their shelves, but putting them on the Pinot shelf and putting them on the Chardonnay shelf, so they're up there next to the world's best."