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Spotlight on 2020: Laura Jewell MW, Wine Australia

Published:  11 December, 2019

As we prepare for the new decade, Harpers will be taking the month of December to look back over 2019 and ahead to what the coming year will bring – hopefully full of revived optimism for both politics and the trade.

Here, we continue our winter series of reflections, predictions and views with Laura Jewell, regional general manager at Wine Australia EMEA 

1. What were the highs and lows for you and your business in 2019?

A big initiative for Wine Australia this year was the launch of Australian Wine Discovered, our free globally accessible education programme. It’s a fantastic resource for wine educators, importers, distributors, retailers and consumers. We now have 25 modules available covering grape varieties, regions and topics such as old vines, sparkling wine, organic and biodynamic wine. To date we have seen over 14,000 downloads from across the world.

Our Australian winemakers continued to come over to the UK this year, with a large contingent of them here in September for our Australia Redefined event. We welcomed nine out of 11 of Australia’s First Families of Wine – their first visit to the UK since 2010 – and they presented their Unlocked tasting, sharing iconic wines from their cellars. At the event, we also had the irrepressible Mike Bennie and Andrew Caillard MW of Langton’s to discuss and taste some of the wines that have the potential to be future icons. Australia Redefined was a fantastic tasting in the brilliant setting of OXO2 and confirmed that there is increased demand for premium Australian wine.

Global exports of Australian wine continue to grow and 2019 was another quality vintage with a good-sized crop. The 2019 crush was 1.73 million tonnes, just 1% below the 10-year average. This is well above early predictions that the harvest would be 10–20% down on 2018.

2. What were the most significant issues and trends that occurred in 2019?

Without dwelling too much on the Brexit impasse, the major issue has been the lack of certainty around Brexit and therefore hampering the planning process. Contingency plans and increased stock levels all put pressure on the day-to-day running of wine businesses.

4. What Brexit outcome would you prefer to see?

The trade needs to be able to plan with some certainty, so a final resolution is needed as soon as possible.

5. What trends do you predict for 2020?

While the overall demand for sparkling wine is levelling out, we have seen a strong interest in Australian sparkling wines over the last 12 months and expect that to continue. There’s also interest in fresh, lighter, crunchy red wines - a style that we’ll be showcasing in a Focus Room at our Australia Trade Tasting in London on 21 January. At the event in January, we’re keen to demonstrate that Australian wines are emerging with a strong focus on freshness, natural acidity, balance and regional distinction.

6. What are likely to be the biggest opportunities for the trade in 2020?

Premiumisation and diversification. Per capita consumption is predicted to decline, but consumers are definitely trading up. There is also a curiosity to explore different grape varieties and regions. In Australia we now have the Australian Saperavi Association – the first of its kind to celebrate this unique grape variety – and every year more than 100 alternative varieties are entered into The Australian Alternative Varieties Wine Show!

7. What are the biggest challenges facing the trade in 2020?

Brexit will be the biggest challenge, whichever way it falls, and will affect every business in the UK. On top of that we may see another increase in wine duty levels, but the WSTA is doing a great job of keeping us informed and lobbying the government.

8. Who are the people, companies or retailers to watch in 2020?

There is such a strong connection between the UK and Australia, and our activities in 2020 will entice even more of our Aussie winemakers over to visit and share their knowledge and creativity. They’re an eclectic bunch, we’re watching them! 2020 is going to be busy.

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

After all our activities in the UK and Europe over the last four months, it will be good to relax with family and friends, and recharge the batteries before our big tastings in January.

10. New Year's resolution?

Drink more Riesling.