Vignerons check package fine print
By JAMIE KRONBORG
THE North East’s smaller vignerons are checking the fine print in a $50 million, three-year federal government plan to build wine exports and international wine tourism.
The government’s wine support package – announced last week – appears to have a regional focus but a business plan in which the strategy is detailed shows that most wine tourists visit only the major production regions close to Australia’s capital cities.
The plan reported that almost 1.1 million visitors went to Australia’s wineries in 2015.
It also showed that overall visitor numbers and cellar door sales were closely linked – with 1617 wineries maintained a cellar door outlet, according to the document.
But the proportion of wineries with cellar door had fallen from almost 80 per cent a decade ago to less than 66pc in 2016, according to the plan.
Nationals’ Victorian Senator Bridget McKenzie said the package had a twopronged approach – to build export opportunities and to encourage tourists to taste wines in the state’s wine-producing regions.
She said the aim of the visitor strategy was to attract 40,000 more international tourists to Australian wine regions by 201920, which was expected to deliver an estimated $170 million to the national economy.
The package was also designed to “capture growth” in wine regions like the Alpine valleys by offering state-based and competitive grants to strengthen wine tourism.
The business plan offered examples of projects that could be funded, including regional wine events that increase cellar doors sales, the development of regional wine trails and “wine clusters” across state borders, and common infrastructure – such as booking or reservation systems – that aid individual cellar door wineries and the region in which these operate.
Project proposals will be subjected to competitive, merit-based assessment and approved by the Australian Grape and Wine Authority board on the recommendation of an expert assessment panel before being presented for ministerial approval.
There is also some concern that smaller vignerons or regional associations might be disadvantaged by the package’s export and international tourism development focus.
CELLAR DOOR: Merriang South vigneron Bri Lewis (right) talked with Coffee Chakra’s Leonie and Vivek Sharma, who brought baby Ishanya with them, to the opening of a new wine outlet in Myrtleford on Friday.