I like reading newsletters from generic wine organisations. They give us good market statistics and a view of our market ‘from the outside’. This morning I glanced at a Wines Australia News February 2016. It was titled, ‘UK wine trade delight in Australia Day Tastings’. This seemed interesting as Wines Australia had a Fair here last month also. Let’s see how it went in the UK.
The newsletter began with a large sidebar that told us, ‘We kicked off the New Year in style with our headline Australia Day Tastings, which for the first time included Dublin and Edinburgh alongside our annual blockbuster event in London’. Odd. We’ve had Aussie Wine Fairs here for years. It got worse. In the body of the newsletter we are informed that, ‘The Dublin event, which has been held annually since 2014, took place on 27 January and offered more than 200 wines. A consumer tasting was also included for the first time and Chardonnay and Shiraz were featured at two focus tables’. So, it’s not the first time but it is the first time as an ‘Australia Day Tasting’? Does it matter? Not really until we read that, ‘Our Australia Day Tasting in London has long been the pre-eminent tasting for Australian wines in the UK, and its success prompted extension to Ireland and Scotland’. Now I have a problem.
Ireland has embraced wines from Australia for many, many years. Along the way we have supported, promoted and sold Australian wines with enthusiasm and vigour. Wines of Australia had an annual budget for promotion in Ireland and indeed employed on a semi part time basis a really excellent representative based in Ireland. He organised, and we attended, brilliant tastings plus a fabulous annual Wines of Australia Fair. The Fair was held in its latter years at Croke Park.
Wines of Australia pulled its marketing budget out of Ireland.
No more excellent tastings.
Now we are ‘an extension’ of the UK ‘blockbuster event’!! Are we? They showed 1000 wines this year in London – 200 in Ireland.
Wines of Australia seem to have a memory that only goes back to 2014 as far as Ireland is concerned. What happened to all of our very good work on their behalf way before that? Indeed, why are we expected to now accept tiny promotions – the Dublin Fair is a small one folks and only takes in a few hours in the afternoon – and promote premium wines on their behalf?
This is all a bit cheeky in a market where Australian wines sit in second place to Chile and are available in every outlet throughout the entire country. This is a story being spun from an office in London that doesn’t really understand that we are no longer an extension of the UK market. Indeed, it has been a long time since we have been!
As I say. I like reading newsletters from generic wine organisations. You never know what little nuggets of info you’ll find hidden in them.
Wine Australia’s recent Export Report December 2015 shows that the value of Australian wine exports increased 14% to $2.1 billion – its highest growth by value since 2007. Indeed, it was also the very first time that Australia recorded value growth in each of its top 15 markets. That is a fantastic result. Mind you, headline numbers like these can hide many things. The press release only gave us a breakdown of the FOB (Free on Board) values of wines valued at $10.00 and above. That’s quite a narrowed scenario. In a wider context the ‘UK’, Australia’s biggest overseas market by volume, only increased its value by 0.2% to $376m. The second was the USA – up 4% $443m. By comparison China rose by 66% to $370m! 66%!!!! That might be worrying and could be scary. Mind you, they are rising rapidly from a very low base.
So if the biggest overseas market by volume has only increased its shipped value by 0.2% how do we arrive at the Very Big Headline number of a 14% increase to $2.1b? Is it a case that the UK is still bringing in vast volumes of the cheaper stuff? Maybe that’s why the press release has concentrated on the $10.00 and above?
How does Ireland fit into this? Well, the Press Release on the recent wine fairs quotes The Irish Times’ wine correspondent John Wilson suggesting that Australian wine is making a comeback in Ireland: ‘I think Australia’s been through a difficult period in Ireland in the last four or five years but I can see it coming out of that. I think it’s a combination of currency and style but I think Australia has risen to the challenge and is actually primed to do very well in the next four or five years,’ he said. This is interesting only in so far as Australia was Number One in Ireland but, as it needed to focus on a value offering, ie more expensive wines in order to help the industry survive back in Australia, it has slipped back to Number Two. It has no intention of trying to knock Chile off its perch – it just doesn’t have the wine. So, one presumes ‘coming out of a difficult period’ means that it is now selling better quality wine again after Ireland’s internal fiscal difficulties ie everyone was broke and switched to Chile, Aldi and Lidl! Now there’s an interesting one. Lidl bonds in England and not in Ireland. Aldi brings theirs in from Germany. Wine Australia figures are for exports out of Australia. In this case ‘our wine’ is often in the UK and German statistics! Does this mean our numbers for inexpensive wines from Australia are seriously under reported?
FACTCHECK: Look up export figures to Ireland …. Value up? Volume up? Wine Australia tells us the following for Ireland’s direct shipments:
2014 3,149,562 ls $11,454,380 average value $3.64
2015 3,587,066 ls $13,228,271 average value $3.69
This gives us a 1% value change year on year BEFORE taking into account any volume shipped from the UK and or Germany both of which are likely to bring the average value down and not up.
What’s the real news? The headline really should read: ‘Australian Wines Slip Back into Second Place in Ireland, behind Chile, and Continues to Record No Change in Value.’ So, in real terms both value and volume are down. What’s Australia doing about it? Not a lot. The wine Fair is sub-standard and there is very little else is in the calendar for 2016.
Are we now impressed by the headlines, that were carried by many of the press in Ireland, telling us that it’s all rosy and on the way up for Australian wines? Not really – unless we’re an extension of China also!
All of these views are my own and if I am wrong then please point my mistakes out to me. I will be glad to clarify. I have the highest of respect for Australian wines and Australian wine makers many of which are among the best in the world. Ireland continues to be a very important export market for Australian wines and it should not be lumped in with something as vague as a UK marketing platform. Finally, John Wilson is one our best ever wine writers and I hold both his writing and integrity in the highest regard. Kevin