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Row sparked over Aussie export warning

Producers have expressed dismay at a warning over poor-quality Australian wine exports.

Following last month’s comments from Treasury Wine Estates chief executive David Dearie over poor-quality and low-priced Australian wine, a number of winemakers and Australian brand owners have spoken out.

Dearie said that the quality of inexpensive exports off the back of a rain-soaked and high-volume harvest had the potential to do long-term damage to the image of the Australian wine industry.

Kate Giles, business development manager at Byrne & Smith Wines in Adelaide, commented: “Many of the wines produced this vintage are stunning. As in any vintage, there are highs and lows, and perhaps the water and mould factor will have some impact, but to write off the majority of production is unethical and incorrect.”

She added: “My 11 wines are looking pretty good. I hope many others are too, because the reputation of Australian Wine is not the preserve of one company, but of the nation’s producers.”

Steve Knight, a lecturer in Australia at Bond University on Australia’s Gold Coast, also expressed his anger.

“This from a so called ‘industry leader’ who makes bald and unsubstantiated comments to push his own brand barrow, at a time when most of the industry is working hard to improve our export position and maximise $/litre return,” he wrote on

Not everyone disagreed with Dearie, however. A reader, known only as “Jerry”, wrote on db’s site: “Dearie’s comments are correct – there is millions of litres on the bulk market that are not worth bottling but will end up in a bulk shipment somewhere further eroding the status of Australian wine. We should be talking about the real issues in the wine industry and wine quality from 2011 is one of them.”

Further, Justin Knock MW, managing director of the Purple Hand Wine Consultancy, pointed out that almost all grape growing regions suffered record levels of rainfall in 2010/11 which brought high disease pressure and dilution.

He also wrote on that it was important to be transparent about the problems faced and that there should be stricter quality controls when it comes to Australia’s bulk wine production.

“Wine Australia must run a tighter rule than ever over bulk exports or Australia’s image is up for tarnishing and consumers will lose out,” he noted.

“I’d rather see this poor bottom 10% of Australian production disappear down the drain than a wine-lovers throat,” he added, referring to around 300,000 tons of grapes that “should not have been picked”.

Meanwhile, Julia Angove, PR manager for Wine Australia, told db that the organisation had been particularly attentive when inspecting wine quality this year.

“Wine Australia maintains a panel of highly qualified wine inspectors who are charged with testing wine to ensure it is sound and merchantable.”

She continued, “The wine inspection panel has been particularly vigilant this year throughout the testing process given the challenges that the 2011 vintage provided.”

The upcoming September edition of the drinks business includes an extensive article on Australia’s attempt to improve its upmarket positioning through education as well as comments from leading winemakers and brand owners on the state of the 2011 vintage and resulting wines.





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