Monday, February 11, 2019

Rant: Let's Reconsider Australian Wine

"Global demand for Australian wine has fallen substantially since exports peaked in 2007;..."
--Market Watch (January/February 2019)

As I previously mentioned, I resolved this year to taste more Australian wines, to assess the diversity and quality that is now being produced in that country. I've recently tasted some excellent examples of Australian wines, such as the 2014 Shirvington Cabernet Sauvignon, which only had a 13% ABV. I certainly understand the reasons behind the decline in the popularity of Australian wines, but maybe it is now time to reconsider, to return to Australian wines and find new reasons to love their wines.

The recent issue of Market Watch (January/February 2019) published an intriguing article about the current status of Australian wines, noting the problems Australian wine has faced. "..., Australian wine exports were down 11% to 17.7 million cases in the fiscal year ended June 2018,..." However, they also noted that there have been some positive changes in recent years. For example, "In the calendar year ended November 4, 2018, Australia posted gains at the luxury ($20-$25 a 750ml) and super-luxury ($25-and-above) tiers,...growing 16.1% to 7.8 million cases and 15.4% to 3.1 millions cases in the U.S.,..." In addition, "The number of Australian wineries present in the U.S. has also risen in recent years, pushing to nearly 300 in 2018 after sinking to 234 just two years prior."

In 2017, close to 70% of Australian wine imports, about 11,714,000 cases, were encompassed by only ten wine brands. The top three Australian wine brands include Yellow Tail (7,350,000 cases but down 6.3% from 2016), Lindemans (1,332,000 cases but down 13.2% from 2016), and 19 Crimes (1,056,000 cases, which has about doubled since 2016). At the wine shop where I work, I see the huge popularity of Yellow Tail, and recently 19 Crimes has also been popular. It would be good if people could look past just these top ten brands and started exploring the greater diversity that Australia has to offer.

The Market Watch article noted ".., there's a lingering stagnation for the category at the retail end." Consumer education is needed, to make them cognizant in the changes in the Australian wine industry. Australian Shiraz was once vastly popular though they often showcased "...high-abv expressions of the grape that burst with bold, ripe flavors," also known as "fruit bombs." There was a backlash against these Australian fruit bombs, and I'll admit they turned me off from wanting to drink Australian wines.

However, changes have been made in Australia. For example, a number of wineries now highlight different expressions of Shiraz, presenting more diversity in the flavor profile of their wines. You can find plenty of Shiraz wines that are not fruit bombs. There has also been a move to highlight other regions of Australia, areas which have received little attention in previous years. These regions produce different wine styles, due to their different terroirs. In addition, wineries are using a wider array of grapes, from Chardonnay to Vermentino, Pinot Noir to Grenache.

There are plenty of reasons to reconsider Australian wine and now is the time to explore their wines. Broaden your vinous horizons, exploring different regions of Australia, different grapes and different expressions of Shiraz. I'll be continuing my own explorations of their wines and encourage all of my readers to join me on this journey.


acdemo said...
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Grape Wall said...

People who see Australian wines as all being big fruit bomb-y (often Barossa Valley) reds are a bit like people who see all U.S. beers in terms of Miller / Budweiser et al. Yes, it's not a perfect analogy, but the point is in both cases there is so much delicious diversity beyond the generalities. Hunter Valley Semillion, Tasmania Pinot Noir, those wonderful wines from Margaret River, a wide range of cool climate wines, so much to explore.