Australian wine exports to the USA are slowing. The dollar is strong, the competition is stronger and our product just isn’t good enough to keep hold. So surplus wine is flooding the local market.
You might have been told that in order to remedy this situation you need to improve marketing in the USA. You might have been advised on how to market Australian wine to millennials and on how to increase the perception of your premium product?
Why do US wine consumers assume Australian wines are always high alcohol, semi-sweet, bowl-you-over labelled with cartoons? Because below-par wines are all that’s available on US shelves. It’s like Australian consumer judging the entire US wine industry on the Beringer White Zinfandel for $6 at your local Dan Murphy’s.
So without gloss or optimism here is a Californian report of the state of Australian wine in the US market;
Everyone’s favourite Left Handed shiraz. A floor stack discount embarrassing the community of McLaren Vale wine producers. (Bottle Barn in Santa Rosa, California)
Alice White pinot noir “Juicy and fruit-forward with a silky texture, bright cherry and plum flavors, and a soft, lingering finish with hints of toasted oak spice.” Sounds delicious. At $2.97, down from $6.99 this 750mL bottle is cheaper than a takeaway flat white. I am left wondering who benefits from this product.
Here’s the brand we all love to hate [yellow tail]. Bless it’s cotton socks for doing so well and exporting 80% of their turps. Casella has done a great job putting ‘South Eastern Australian’ fruit into the glasses of wine-drinkers worldwide. It carved the way so that others might follow. Unfortunately, at prices this low, it only wedges open the market at the goon-in-glass level of production. That’s a Magnum Fail.
These 1.5L bottles were spotted for $9.99 at CVS Drug Store in Healdsburg and (between magnums of Soave and Sake) for $10.99 at Whole Foods Market, Coddingtown Mall, CA.
The Whole Foods Australian shiraz trifecta? In 750mL bottles; there is [yellow tail] $5.49, Trackers Crossing $6.99 and The Stump Jump at $9.99. This (generally) high quality supermarket chain is not doing any justice to Brand Australia.
For those attempting to market wine to some young punk millenials; take one badass word, like ‘witchcraft’ and then make it even more badass by using the spanish translation (Brujeria). Put a zany label on and you have another great wine blended from the finest (I’m sure that’s what it says somewhere in the fine print) grapes grown in South Eastern Australia. Reportedly the Misfits Productions reject all convention, “doing whatever it takes to make the best product possible“. Accordingly, these ‘wine souls’ keep their 66% Shiraz, 17% Cab, 11% Grenache, and 8% Tempranillo separate before blending to bottle.
I give a Big Woop Red Wine that Australian producers are represented by a $15.99 one litre lab blend. Adding insult to injury is the Boarding Pass shiraz sporting the gaudiest packaging ever exported. How are unique Australian wine growers going to get a foothold in a market filled with blended bulk wine sold at 4 times the price? (Whole Foods)
For the record, I am not taking aim at the Australian wine industry. I am Australian. I grew up on Weetbix, Vegemite sandwiches and classic Australian shiraz. I think semillon might just be my favourite grape and I get confused when riesling doesn’t have a fusel component. I am entirely optimistic that as an industry we are finding new ways to express ourselves, and our land. But it breaks my heart to see our national diversity represented in any market the way it is here on shelves in the USA.
I want to see Margaret River Cabernet, Tasmanian sparkling wine and Canberra District Riesling. I want to continue to see local US winemakers surprised (impressed) at pinot noir from Whitlands, confused (impressed) by old cabernet from the Hunter Valley and to embrace the unique flavours of really old riesling from the Clare Valley.
I don’t want to see cheap wine by chimps or dogs or native animals anymore.
Enough is enough.