Fresh and fruity, or a full-bodied red? Whenever Australian wine exporters ask themselves such a question these days, the answer almost always depends onChina. Hunter Valley-based wine marketer Brian McGuigan, for one, is certain China will be a game-changer forAustralia’swine industry in the long term. But right nowhe is focused on the high dollar and the need to be as lean as possible amid fierce competition for the palates of global wine consumers. “When it’s 70 cents to theUS dollar, every Australian wine exporter thinks it’s Christmas,” McGuigan says. “But at parity or above, it’s really difficult.”
The situation calls for innovative styles and production solutions, including locating the bottling, labelling and packaging as close to target markets as possible. In these difficult conditions, many in the Australian industry sees China as a potential saviour.
But, of course, so does every other wine exporter, frommarket leader France to volume producers Chile, Spain and Italy to up-andcomers such as the US andNew Zealand. In a rapidly expandingmarket, Australia’s share of volume is falling as theChileans and Spanish, in particular, bombard China with relatively cheap wine for bulk blending by Great Wall, flagship brand of state-owned food processing and trading conglomerate COFCO.
This focus by exporters reflects one simple fact: China may not be the biggest importer of 1 France 2 US 3 Italy
5 China Source: International Organisation of Vine & Wine