Savoring Success: Wine Australia's Strategies for US Market Growth

07/05/2024 Navigating Challenges and Cultivating Growth for Australian Wines in the US Market

Wine Australia is continually implementing a range of strategies to promote Australian wines and increase market share in the US. From educational seminars for trade to retail partnerships and media pitching, Wine Australia is leaving no stone unturned to bolster the presence of Australian wines in the competitive US market. We speak to Aaron Ridway, Regional GM of Americas for Wine Australia about the current and future state of Australian wines in the US market. 

Australia boasts a diverse range of wine varieties, some of which were lesser-known but are now gaining popularity in the US market. Varieties like Fiano, Montepulciano, and Nero d'Avola are not only gaining popularity in the US but also helping to create a broader, more complete story of Australian wines in the eyes of American consumers.

Image Source: Wine Folly

The $15–$25 retail price range is a sweet spot for Australian wines in the US market, particularly for varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon. Wine Australia ensures that wines in this range are included in all its activities, highlighting their quality and value to consumers.

Wine Australia is actively communicating the message that Australian wines are as good as similarly priced wines from anywhere. Examples like Gallo's onboarding of Wirra Wirra showcase the endorsement of Australian wines' quality. Additionally, the current weak Australian dollar presents an opportunity for US importers to take advantage of the value offered by Australian wines.

Engaging sommeliers is a key strategy for Wine Australia in promoting Australian wines in the US on-premise space. Events like Australia Decanted have been successful in engaging sommeliers, and Wine Australia plans to continue these engagements in various cities across the US.

With Australian wine exports facing challenges in key markets like the US, what strategies is Wine Australia implementing to promote Australian wines and increase market share in the competitive US market?

You are right to reference challenges, but those are certainly not limited to wines from Australia. Imported wines are performing better than domestic wines generally, but wine from anywhere is facing a range of headwinds. Our promotional efforts include educational seminars for trade, retail partnerships, media pitching, and, when possible, bringing members of the trade to Australia.

Image: The TEXSOM Conference held at the Irving Convention Centre in Dallas from August 27 – 29, 2023.

Australia is known for its diverse range of wine varieties. Can you highlight some of the lesser-known Australian wine varieties that are gaining popularity in the US market, and how are they being marketed to consumers?

I wouldn’t have been able to say that Fiano, Montepulciano, or Nero d’Avola from Australia would have been available in the US a few years ago, but now they are. Those varieties and many others are helping to create a broader, more complete story of Australian wines in the US.

Wine Australia’s 2023 export report mentions that Australian wines in the $15–$25 retail price range are performing well in the US market, particularly Cabernet Sauvignon. Can you elaborate on what makes Australian wines in this price range stand out, and how Wine Australia is supporting wineries in this segment?

That price range is becoming increasingly important to wine’s fight for a share of the throat. In virtually all of our activities, we ensure that wines in this range are included. Some retailers and restaurants report that customers still expect Australian wines to be priced below comparable offerings from California and Europe, but that is starting to change. 

Image: Mark Davidson, Head of Education Development - Americas at Wine Australia Author - The Wines of Australia

Bulk wine shipments from Australia to the US have increased significantly. How is Wine Australia addressing concerns about the impact of bulk wine sales on the premium image of Australian wines in the US market?

Bulk wine is a key component of how our industry works, and just like bottled wine is subject to fluctuating supply and demand. Australia has had more bulk to sell in recent years, and we’ve seen shipments increase to the US as a result. I don’t see it impacting our strategic focus on premium wine.

Image: Education in California, Mark Davidson hosted a hybrid tasting event for Wine Victoria.

The report indicates that Australian wines are "as good as similarly priced wines from anywhere." How is Wine Australia communicating this message to US consumers and trade partners, and what are the key selling points for Australian wines in the US market?

Take a look at Gallo’s onboarding of Wirra Wirra, a fantastic winery from McLaren Vale. Although many different wines are made there, the initial focus is on Cabernet. That’s a powerful endorsement of that style of wine from Australia. And we simply can’t ignore the opportunity created by the weak Australian dollar. As inflation remains stubbornly high, a US importer is able to take advantage of a strong trading position based on FX.

What role do you see sommeliers playing in promoting Australian wines in the US market, and how is Wine Australia engaging with sommeliers to increase awareness and appreciation of Australian wines?

We are in constant contact with sommeliers all around the country. Many sommeliers came to our Australia Decanted events in Lake Tahoe in 2018 and 2019. And most of them still working in the wine industry continue to support Australian wines. We are getting back to doing some more physical events this year and next, beginning in Houston and moving on through Santa Barbara, Chicago, Washington D.C, and Boston to name a few.

Image: Head of Education, Mark Davidson, in Texas.

Australia's wine industry is known for its innovation and quality. Can you highlight some recent innovations or trends in Australian winemaking that are shaping the industry's future in the US market?

Australian wine is all about contrast. Although we are known for bold red wines, and acknowledge some backlash against that style, it is merely one aspect of our wine identity. A trend, if you can call it that, is a general sense that Australian wine is much more than Shiraz. It remains our core variety but no longer defines us. Drought-tolerant varieties, sap flow irrigation resulting in healthier vines that require far less water, expressions of Shiraz coming in looking fresher and at lower alcohol levels. There is also a major national program called Sustainable Winegrowing Australia that will start to feature in our promotions later this year.

Image: World of Pinot Noir - Bubbles seminar.

Looking ahead, what are Wine Australia's key priorities and initiatives for promoting Australian wines in the US market in the coming years?

As referenced above, it’s a focused mix of education, retail partnerships, and trade and consumer events in different cities.

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Conclusion:

Innovation and quality are hallmarks of Australia's wine industry, and recent trends in Australian winemaking reflect a commitment to sustainability, diversity, and quality. Looking ahead, Wine Australia's key priorities for promoting Australian wines in the US market include a mix of education, retail partnerships, and trade and consumer events in different cities. As the global wine market continues to evolve, Wine Australia remains dedicated to showcasing the best of Australian wines to US consumers and trade partners.

In conversation with Malvika Patel, Editor and VP, Beverage Trade Network

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