Wine families to woo China

Australia’s best-known winemaking families have embarked on a trade mission to China just as the Communist Party’s austerity drive clamps down on banquets and giftgiving, but they argue shackled budgets will ultimately benefit their premium wine brands.

Australia’s best-known winemaking families have embarked on a trade mission to China just as the Communist Party’s austerity drive clamps down on banquets and giftgiving, but they argue shackled budgets will ultimately benefit their premium wine brands.

Australia’s First Families of Wine, a grouping of 12 family owned wineries, are spending two weeks travelling through Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong to meet

retailers, government officials, shoppers and the trade press over a series of dinners and tastings.

Having conducted similar trips to Britain and North America, it is the first time representatives from the 12 families that make up AFFW have toured China.

‘‘As a group, we are passionate about family history, provenance, stories and a pride for our flagship wines which are made from some of Australia’s most iconic vineyards,’’ said AFFW chairman and the third-generation managing director

of Taylors Wines, Mitchell Taylor.

‘‘We believe these values sit both culturally and socially in alignment with the values of China and these values are going to be the driving message for AFFW on this trip.’’

China looms as a key growth market for Australian wine. Australia is the second-biggest supplier of imported wine to the Middle Kingdom, behind France.

In the 10 years from1999 to 2009 the size of the Chinese wine market has rocketed from 30 million cases to 126 million cases.

Australia has a 15 per cent market share in value and 13 per cent in volume in the imported wine market, with the region’s growth a handy counter to flatlining sales in

mature markets such as North America and Europe.

In the year to December 2012 Australian wine sales to China bounced 15 per cent.

Speaking to BusinessDay from Shanghai, Mr Taylor said the Chinese were impressed by the history and longevity of the wine brands that form AFFW. ‘‘They love it, the Chinese respect tradition, family values and longevity, so when we are talking 1200 years of winemaking heritage among the 12 of us and you can just see they take

that in.

‘‘They don’t like the short-term thinking that can occur in the wine industry.’’

Formed in 2009, AFFW brought together 12 family-owned wineries to help lead a public campaign to highlight the quality and diversity of Australian wine against a backdrop of cheap wines flooding local and international markets. Its members include d’Arenberg, Jim Barry Wines, Brown Brothers, Taylors, Henschke, Yalumba,

Howard Park, De Bortoli and Tyrrell’s, and represent 16 Australian wine-growing regions across four states.

Mr Taylor said a sustained austerity campaign by the Chinese central government had drained demand for wine, but he said that once the thrift policy eased – perhaps

in the next 12 months – quality and higher priced wines would emerge stronger.

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