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April 7, 2021

Complexifying and Re-mystifying Wine w/ Aaron Ridgway, Wine Australia

Complexifying and Re-mystifying Wine w/ Aaron Ridgway, Wine Australia

While “cheap and cheerful” might have been an apt description of Australian wine 20 years ago when Yellowtail was the #1 wine brand in the US, “Made our Way” is the new Australian marketing campaign that emphasizes the complexities and innovation of the m


While “cheap and cheerful” might have been an apt description of Australian wine 20 years ago when Yellowtail was the #1 wine brand in the US, “Made our Way” is the new Australian marketing campaign that emphasizes the complexities and innovation of the modern Australian wine industry.  Aaron Ridgway, Regional GM of the Americas for Wine Australia, tells us about how they are “complexifying” and “re-mystifying” Australian wine, showcasing the substantial innovation, 100 different grape varieties, and extreme regional variations in growing climates.  Listen in for the journey of Australian wine through decades and regions of the world. 

Detailed Show Notes: 

  • Australian Wine
    • Has been a big wine exporter since the 1980s
    • ~2M tons of grapes per year (smaller than the US)
    • A$3B of wine exported to 150 countries (A$450M to the US)
    • Old vines (including some own-rooted ones), 100 varieties grown, 65 wine regions make the country unique and diverse
    • Lots of climate diversity - cool climates, deserts, wetter and drier regions
    • 200 years of winemaking history
    • Yellowtail, which was launched in 2000, was the #1 wine brand in the US for a while
  • Wine sales
    • Affordable wine demand has remained, but higher-end wines have grown
    • 2x the sales of >$10/bottle in 2020 than in 2017
    • Peak Australian wine sales around 2007-2008, many Australian wines were sold out and flying off the shelves
    • Top Export Markets
      • North America (US, Canada) - growing mid-single digits
        • Canada - 24% market share; Canada is behind the curve in terms of what’s new and exciting (vs. the US)
      • UK - up 30%; 80% of sales is bulk wine, very price competitive market
      • China (was big, major importing challenges right now)
  • Wine Australia messaging
    • Global message - Australian wine is diverse and exciting
    • The goal is the complexify and re-mystify Australian wine - pushing stories of individuals and the many diverse wine regions vs. Australia as a single category
    • Current strengths - natural wines (from the strength of character and experimentation) and innovation (e.g., 19 Crimes Augmented Reality, Penfolds’ California Collection, new packaging)
      • E.g., Ochota Barrels - a story of a “new classic”
        • Experience with very commercial wineries globally, including Two Hands in Australia
        • A punk rocker who bought a vineyard in the Adelaide Hills
        • They make unique wines with contemporary packaging
  • Wine Australia organization
    • Mission - make Australian wine more competitive globally, want to raise the average price
    • Tagline / PR Campaign  - “Australian Wine, Made our Way”
      • Fighting the sense of “sameness” in wine marketing
      • More drone photography, scenes where the desert meets the ocean, tannin stains under the fingernails
    • Success?  Driving organic growth, both in volume and price 
    • The US has 3 priorities
      • 1) Digitally nimble in education - Australia Wine Discovered - customizable, fully downloadable library of wine content, including educator guides
      • 2) Business Development - help retailers, wholesalers, chain restaurants - with staff education, programming
      • 3) Market Entry - only ~20% of Australian wines are in the US market
  • Major marketing techniques
    • Try to match the content and level of detail with what the audience is seeking
    • “Australia Decanted”
      • Trade education conference in Lake Tahoe (2018-2019)
      • 100 people each year
      • The location chosen because no wine was made there, can focus without distraction, and it's much closer than Australia
      • It changes people's minds, creates a more spiritual connection with Australian wine
      • Many alumni of the program go out to talk about Australian wine
    • Global blind tastings - to focus on match in the glass, 8 Australian wines, and 4 global wines of the same variety
    • Techniques vary by market
      • Canada - focused on exploration and increasing the range of wines available with the provincial monopolies
      • UK - white glove, fine wine, trade-focused (as most of the sales are bulk)
      • China - focused on consumers, 10s of millions of interested consumers - lots of local educators to deliver the messages (leveraging Australian Wine Discovered)
      • Germany - mostly trade education
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