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Harpers Leader: Spotlight down under

Published:  18 January, 2007

This time of year is dominated by Down Under - New Zealand this week and Australia the week after next.

New Zealand seems set to continue struggling to meet worldwide demand for its Sauvignon Blancs, which means it can probably resist pressures to reduce prices. From this relative comfort zone, it can look to develop its premium reds - sexy' Pinot Noirs and Bordeaux blends - and aromatic whites. An enviable position to be in.

Australia, on the other hand, faces some challenges. It is hardly in a dire position as it remains number one in the UK, and there is enough knowledge, expertise and professionalism in terms of winemaking and marketing to see it through.

Nevertheless, the advent of phylloxera and the drought is going to test that expertise and resolve. Every cloud has a silver lining, so a smaller crush will ease pressures on prices. But if Australia cannot meet demands, there are plenty of other countries ready to step in. The possible danger is if Australia sneezes, will the whole wine sector catch a cold?

So, it is in nearly everyone's interests that the Australia Day tastings (31 January/1 February) go well and get the trade off to a positive start. Producers and suppliers need to step up and press home their advantage - be it with new wines, regional offerings or pressing the pub and restaurant trade to list Aussie wines.

Christian Davis