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Australia sets sights on fine wine

Australia has the potential to become the world’s greatest wine producing nations, according to the chairman of the Australian Grape and Wine Authority (AGWA), as its fight to put Australia on the fine wine map begins.

Brian Walsh, chairman of the AGWA

Speaking to the drinks business at the Australia Day Tasting in London yesterday Brian Walsh, chairman of the Australian Grape and Wine Authority (AGWA), set out the organisations’s vision for 2015 which will mark the start of a “generational project” to promote Australia as a fine wine region.

“Our focus for the next five years, of 30, is to focus on the fine wine part of our offering and try to articulate the message that with our terroirs and climates we are in a position to be one of the great wine producing regions in the world,” Walsh said.

“Our reputation is to make good wines, not great wines. That is important in terms of volume, but perception is also important. If we get this work right and inspire our winemakers to continue to make the very best wine they can and we communicate that, it will have a tremendous affect on the whole category.”

The AGWA was formed last year replacing the country’s Wine Australia Corporation and the Grape & Wine Research & Development Corporation, bringing their various functions under a single authority. “It means that when we look at our options for investing in research we can keep it fairly focused in terms of whether it will help us with our marketing,” Walsh said.

The organisation is currently in the process of drawing up a five year plan for the future of the Australian wine industry which is due to be presented to the country’s federal government in April.

“We are looking at this plan as if it is going to happen because quite frankly we don’t think there is another option. It’s not just about fine wine, it’s about the whole experience.”

Stressing that, “we don’t want to airbrush anything or be anything we aren’t”, Walsh said it was about putting on a “quality act”, which in the long term would reflect favourably upon the whole of the Australian wine industry.

“Fine wine is creating demand. We want people to drink Australian wine because they have heard how good it is, rather than how inexpensive it is. We want people to buy it based on its reputation”, he added. Acknowledging that the value of Australian wine is often misinterpreted as “cheap”, Walsh said this mindset needed to change.

While communication via traditional and digital methods will be key to this, Walsh also pointed to how Australia’s gastronomy could help build Australia’s reputation for fine wine.

Drawing a parallel between the country’s cuisine and its wines, Walsh said: “Our chefs have evolved in the last 20 years in that they don’t have boundaries, in the same way as Australian wine. Our chefs feel totally unrestrained and are pushing boundaries. I think these synergies between fine food and fine dining are really compelling and make for a really authentic strategy.”

When asked what could be the alternative outlook for the Australian wine industry, if a focus on fine wine was not a priority, Walsh said: “I think the potential would be for us to muddle along and there will be people who do well and people who fail and that’s always going to happen, but because we feel confident that we have the terroirs and geographies within our country and the capability, we feel we have the resources to be the greatest wine producing nation in the world. That sounds very grandiose and it’s not supposed to be braggish, but we think it’s a fact. So if we believe we can do that why would we aim to be third or fourth in the world? We want to go out there and be the best.”

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