Strong dollar forces Brown Brothers to turn away from UK
The 124-year-old family-owned winemaker Brown Brothers will turn its attention to the domestic market and opportunities in Asia after a sustained strengthening of the Australian dollar caused its once-vibrant British export market to become barely viable.
The brand manager for Brown Brothers in the UK has resigned and will not be replaced.
Brown Brothers chief executive Roland Wahlquist said the winemaker's revenue in Britain was only 10 per cent of what it was five years ago.
He laid the blame for thinning sales at the feet of the Aussie.
"With the continued strength of the Australian dollar, our sales have declined further," Mr Wahlquist said.
"The dollar just makes it extremely tough in traditional export markets for Australian wines.
"Our brand manager wont be replaced because the volumes we are doing there now don't justify having a full-time brand manager in the UK - but we are not changing our route to market."
The decision to scale back operations in Britain and a downturn in volumes will see the loss of 10 jobs at the group's Milawa winery.
It comes as Brown Brothers has decided to sell vineyards in Victoria and Tasmania, as it sees less need for pinot noir and chardonnay and pours more resources into its prosecco wines.
The company employs more than 200 staff.
"Pinot noir and chardonnay sparkling wines, we had too much, more than what we needed," Mr Wahlquist said.
He said prosecco sales were rapidly growing, albeit from a small base.
"Our prosecco has been selling very well for us but it's still a relatively new style of sparkling wine that people in Australia are really only just discovering."
Brown Brothers first experimented with prosecco, an Italian sparkling wine, in 2006 when it grafted some out-of-use vines at its Banksdale vineyard in the upper reaches of the King Valley in north-east Victoria.
Prosecco is in northern Italy, in the Veneto region, and its wine style has become increasingly popular among Australian drinkers, especially in warmer months.