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China now Australia’s great wine hope

The growing popularity of Australian wine in China means the nation is now Australia’s great wine hope and the market it will prioritise this year.

Value sales are up by an impressive 40% in mainland Chine, while year on year volume sales are up even further – by 45%. While the UK remains Australia’s number on market by volume sales, it is no longer top for value sales, having been overtaken by China.

However, exports to the UK suffered their biggest hit at the bulk end of the market, while premium wine sales enjoyed growth. Australian wine exports to the UK at AU$10/litre and above grew by 25% to $28 million, while exports below $5/litre dipped by 10% to 287 million.

The UK remains the number one market in Europe for Australian wine, followed by Germany, The Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden. Across the pond, value sales of Australian wine are up by 3% in the US.

BK Wines was among the newcomers at this year’s Australia Day tasting

In terms of the most imported varieties, Shiraz remains in the top stop, ahead of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Shiraz/Cabernet blends and Merlot. Shiraz is still king in Australia, accounting for 26% of grape plantings in the country.

Reflecting the rise in popularity of Italian and Portuguese varieties in Australia, Touriga Nacional showed the largest growth in the export market, with exports to the UK up by 575% year on year to $43,000.

Italian white variety Fiano meanwhile, enjoyed 273% growth, while UK sales of Australian Vermentino were up by 185% and Sangiovese 83%.

Yesterday Wine Australia held its Australia Day Tasting in London, which featured nearly 1100 wines from 31 different regions across the country.

With Wine Australia keen to push the premium message this year, just 2% of the wines on show cost under £7 at retail.

Key players in the off-trade saw sales growth in Australian premium wine over Christmas. At Majestic, sales of Australian wine over £19.99 were up 54%, driven by Penfolds Bin 28, Two Hands Bella’s Garden and Mollydooker Boxer Shiraz.

Talk at the tasting centred on the 2017 vintage, and how late it might be due to one of the coldest and wettest springs in recent memory.

Many estates are expected to pick up to a month later than usual in order for their grapes to achieve full ripeness, though the harvest has already begun in the Hunter Valley, with Semillon specialist Tyrrell’s having started picking.

Laura Jewell MW, head of Wine Australia UK, admitted that the Brexit vote last June had had an adverse effect on Australian wine sales to the UK during the second half of last year due to unfavourable exchange rates, leading to a slide in both volume and value sales.

“On a more positive note, Wine Australia is working with the Wine and Spirits Trade Association in order to put the framework together for a free trade agreement. How much that will cancel out the impact of the currency variation remains to be seen,” Jewell admitted.

In addition to the UK, Jewell said that the Netherlands, Belgium and France were the main markets that she’ll be focusing her energy on this year.

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