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Looking ahead: Laura Jewell MW, Wine Australia

Published:  19 December, 2018

Once again we are catching up with the trade over the next few weeks to find out how businesses are making the most of the all-important Christmas trading period, while also looking ahead to the challenges and opportunities 2019 will bring.

Our series continues with insights from Laura Jewell MW, regional general manager, Wine Australia.

Would you say that the trade is in a stronger or weaker place now than at the same time last year, and why?

In 2016, immediately after the vote, and onwards, there was a slowdown. However, in the last year Australian wine exports to the UK have recovered – we’ve seen positive growth of 9% in imports and we’re in a better place now. There’s uncertainty and challenging conditions to come, but as a trade we’re pushing forward, continuing to innovate and we shouldn’t forget about the successes of the last year and the opportunities ahead.

What were the highs and lows for your own business in 2018?

Our Off the Vine tasting in London in September and our Nordic Roadshow in October. There was a great atmosphere at these events, with lots of Aussie producers attending and a number of those new to market found distributors as a result of exhibiting.

Launching Australian Wine Made our Way, our new brand platform to drive international demand for Australian wine. It celebrates the authenticity of Australian wine, the strong bonds of camaraderie in our community and being innovative. It highlights our creative and experimental side – whilst our winemakers respect tradition, we are not forced to adhere to regional rules, we take traditional techniques and apply them in new ways.

Developing our new education programme, Australian Wine Discovered, was another highlight. It’s a fantastic resource for wine educators, importers, distributors, retailers and consumers. We’ve been working on this for over a year and are delighted to have the global launch at our Australia Trade Tasting in London on 22 January.

Lows are the ongoing currency fluctuations and uncertainty surrounding Brexit. There are also concerns among the trade that cheap Australian wine will flood the market. We’re actually seeing a number of positives despite some of the newspaper headlines.

For my team, a low was saying goodbye to Christine our Events & Office Manager who moved back to Australia. We had a goodbye lunch at Ridgeview (also an opportunity to compare Australian sparkling with English!) but toasted Christine’s new role in our Sydney events team.

What were the most significant trends in the drinks world that occurred in 2018?

Premiumisation - across drinks, consumers are becoming more interested in the people and places behind the product and prepared to pay a little more. For Australian wine in the UK, growth at higher price points is encouraging - there’s double-digit growth in the off-trade between £8 and £20.

Organic/biodynamic/sustainable - I think this will continue into 2019, with more people keen to understand where their wines are from and how they are made. Certified organic or biodynamic wines exported globally from Australia is a small, but growing export segment. This segment of exports to the UK grew by 23% in value and 21% in volume the year ended September 2018, and has been growing at rate of 25% on average in the last 5 years.

What drinks trends do you predict will emerge or become more firmly established in 2019?

Sparkling wine - global sparkling wine sales are growing and I suspect will continue next year. One to watch is cool climate premium Aussie fizz. The category is winning awards and Tasmania’s House of Arras winemaker Ed Carr won Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships – the first non-French producer. There’s been a phenomenal response to the sparkling wine master class that Ed Carr is running at our Australia Trade Tasting in London, just three spaces left!

Large formats - wine in magnum, what’s not to love?! A great centre-piece at a party and ideal for Christmas dinner. I’m impressed with The Vinorium’s Aussie range of magnums and bigger. Over the last five years, on average, the value of Australian wine shipped to the UK in magnums has increased by 5% year-on-year.

What are likely to be the biggest opportunities for the trade in 2019?

For us, there are big opportunities in the on-trade. Cool climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, alternative varieties, fresh juicy Grenache, elegant sparkling wine…just some of the styles that fit so well in the premium on-trade. In the on-trade consumers are often keen to try something different, especially with smaller serving sizes such as wine by the glass, which reduces ‘risk’ and encourages discovery. We’re loving the recently-opened Scarlett Green - based on the Melbourne/Sydney café culture - with Antipodean-inspired food and the largest Australian wine-by-the-glass list in London.

What will be the biggest challenges facing the trade in 2019?

The uncertainty and challenging conditions as Brexit approaches, and how it affects the trade’s confidence. We shouldn’t use this as an excuse to stall on planning events or developing new initiatives. At Wine Australia, we're working on large-scale activities the UK, Asia and the USA.

Who are the people, companies or sectors to watch in 2019?

Mel Brown and her team at The Australian Cellar, the online wine shop, which launched in September 2018. With a diverse, exciting range of premium wines and a programme of events, they’re challenging perceptions and showing what contemporary Australian wine is all about. We’re looking forward to seeing what they get up to in 2019.

Having worked with The Knotted Vine and Red Squirrel Wine at our recent Off the Vine tasting in London, we’ll be watching these importers. They list great wines, continue to innovate and they’re helping us to share the stories of the people and the places that make Australia unique.

What, for you, would make for a perfect Christmas?

After all the activities we have been running over the last four months, it is time for some relaxation with family and friends, and a chance to recharge batteries before our big tastings in January.