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New premium Australian wine importer launches

Published:  07 January, 2014

A new premium Australian wine importer and distributor Aussie Rules has launched vowing to shake up the price-driven UK market.

Lee Barrie, who heads up the firm, comes with 11 years of experience in the wine trade, having previously worked with Constellation and elsewhere in both sales and buying roles.

Barrie believes Australian wines have been undervalued in the UK, where they are represented mostly by bulk, entry level products, a far cry from their heyday when they dominated the market here. "It was the biggest seller in the UK but average prices have been under pressure from the real entry level bulk wines. There has been nothing to get excited about."

"There's no pretentiousness with Australian wines, the way there is with other wine-producing countries." He told Harpers he sought out wines with "personality and impactful labels".

So far Barrie has secured listings with Majestic and the Wine Society, on wines sourced exclusively for them. The remainder of the portfolio is aimed at independents and the on-trade via regional wholesalers. Barrie is targeting wines in the £12 to £25 rrp range. Based in Glasgow, Aussie Rules will cover the whole of the UK, and Barrie plans to have warehouse space south of the border within the next six months.

The Aussie Rules portfolio comprises six producers and 40 wines from seven different regions, including Rob Dolan and Leconfield.

Barrie aims to sell 7,500 9 litre cases in year one and says Aussie Rules is already ahead of schedule to meet that target.

"Australian producers have become quite disillusioned with the UK market," said Barrie, "with a number of premium producers pulling out in the past few years."

One of his new clients, Riposte, was listed with Enotria until 18 months ago, when Barrie said it decided to withdraw from the UK market as it felt it wasn't getting enough focus within a large portfolio of Australian wines.

"The time is certainly ripe to give focus back to premium Australian wines," added Barrie.