Winemakers believe the increasing sales both at home and abroad are strongly influenced by the relatively weaker Australian dollar, but they are quick to add it is also due to a growing awareness among Chinese consumers about Australia’s many wine regions. The industry in Australia has been working to educate Chinese consumers not only about wine culture, but also the many regions where Australian wine is produced.
With exports to China surging 51 per cent in the 12 months to September 2016, winemakers in Victoria’s Yarra Valley have been watching annual Asian tourist numbers grow by nearly 10 per cent for the last three years.
“It’s been growing, but we’ve especially noticeable over the last six months,” De Bortoli Wine’s Leanna De Bortoli said. “Sometimes we head up to the cellar door and the room is full of Chinese visitors, it’s wonderful.”
To cope with the extra numbers, De Bortoli Wines have employed a Mandarin and Cantonese fluent staffer to deliver tastings to the tourists.
“Not only can she speak to them in their own language, she can describe the wines in a more familiar way, so they can relate to the flavours and smells much better,” Ms De Bortoli said.
De Bortoli is Australia’s seventh largest wine exporter, and Ms De Bortoli said many years of hard work had gone into building a brand in China, and maintaining their market share.
Rural lender Rabobank recently described the current boom in wine exports to China as a “Red Dawn” for the sector. The main category of growth is in premium, bottled red wines, something one of Western Australia’s oldest wineries, Sandalford Wines, has been keen to promote.
“When it comes to the split between red and white, red is dominant,” CEO Grant Brinklow said. “It’s the main stay of our efforts to send wine into Asia, and China in particular.”
Growing awareness of the different wine production regions is proving a boost for rural tourism as visitors seek out cellar doors.
“They want to learn and experiment with wine and try lots of different styles,” Mr Brinklow said. “The growth is linked to that increasing appetite and thirst for wine, linked to the growing middle class in China.”
Like De Bortoli, Gemtree Wines in South Australia’s McLaren Vale and the Pernod Ricard-owned Jacob’s Creek, Sandalford has hired Mandarin and Cantonese speakers to engage with the big number of tourists.