On June 11, local wine and hospitality professionals joined the WCA VIC chapter for an insightful panel event at Treasury Wine Estates in Melbourne. It was the first event organised by the new state committee and they were delighted to see so many people attend. 

Over the course of the evening our expert panel – superbly hosted by Josh Elias – discussed consumer habits on a large and small scale, taking a holistic look at the impact of trends and innovations on the wine industry.

As so aptly put by Josh on the night, we want to make sure you are hearing not only the most sensational commentary but also the most enlightening. To assist, we have summarised some of the points shared by the panel for you below.

Sarah Andrew (National Co-President of Sommeliers Australia, Founder of Selador Wines):

  • Imported wine is on the rise in Australia (84 Australian/26 import) and this is most noticeable on premise where it sits at around 60/40. This has been driven by a consumer thirst for Italian wines, which might also be closely correlated to the increase in the habit of serving chilled red wines
  • The Rosé trend is here to stay and will only get bigger with global players putting significant investment into their production for this category
  • Pinot Grigio is overtaking Sauvignon Blanc in the popularity stakes*
  • The next generation has taken note of the correlation between wine and hangovers. Millennials are drinking less but better and take into consideration the alcohol levels, sustainability and provenance (in that order)
  • The on-premise market has changed hugely in the last 10 years. Higher rents mean less space, which in turn means wine lists are smaller. It’s also highly desirable to have product that is turned over quickly rather than languishing at the bottom of the list
  • Confidence in Coravin is low. There is still a lot of misunderstanding around how it should be used, which leaves too much room for error

*For which we have a particular character on RHoNY to thank.

Rodney Sammut (Wine Intelligence Australia and NZ Country Manager):

  • The number of regular drinkers (once or more a month) and frequent drinkers (once a week or more) is in decline
  • Moderation along with emerging alcohol categories is having an impact on this
  • Consumer knowledge of wine (regions, etc) is decreasing as phones erode our necessity for memory. This is not an age or gender statistic it’s across the board
  • This in turn has the potential to erode the role of provenance. We need to ask ourselves: “If people don’t know the best regions for wine does the region still matter?” This has already happened in the beer category
  • Consumer knowledge and understanding of varietals and regions is in decline, and so when you are communicating with them it is important to ensure you are speaking to them about areas that are of interest to them. They don’t want to be taught, they want a story and/or an experience
  • Millennials would seek to avoid mainstream brands, but may not necessarily be aware they are interacting with them (again, this has already happened in the beer category)
  • The most attractive consumer to interact with is the ‘Engaged Explorer’. They are the biggest spenders on premise and are predominantly under 45. You will find them to be confident as well as open to experimentation and trying new things. It’s also worth noting they are likely to be engaged by other countries of origin
  • Another category to take note of are your ‘Mainstream Matures’ who have knowledge and confidence in the category developed over many years. They are usually over 35, drinking most nights and highly engaged / informed in the category
  • Globally they are seeing a continued similarity to attitudes and interactions with wine alongside subtle local nuances

Ben Culligan (Marketing Director ANZ, Treasury Wine Estates):

  • Collaboration where the result is aligned with the values of both brands has proved a success in the creation of its new Champagne
  • Gin has seen a significant 33 per cent growth in the last year
  • Always innovating, Treasury will launch its first gin this year with its Squealing Pig brand, which will feature a Pinot Noir Rose in it
  • Wine in a can has proved popular with a less experienced market – 1 in 4 of the consumers buying wine in a can hadn’t purchased wine in the last four months
  • The can format lends itself to different occasions and it’s worth noting it’s usually lower alcohol too
  • Information needs to be easily accessible instantly for consumers, they want to find it when they need it and they don’t want to wait

Adam Marks (Founder and Winemaker at Bress Wines): 

  • Resource scarcity, particularly water are top of mind for winemakers across the board
  • Bress prioritising becoming a sustainable business in several different ways:
    • It has on-site hospitality offerings
    • It is continually working on the ongoing reduction of water usage
    • Simplified packaging and a rigorous attention to detail when it comes to reducing its footprint and cost, e.g. single printed logos, the materials used, considering how to reduce the weight of a bottle, etc.)
  • For Bress it is about: Nurture, nourish, flourish.

And here we’re sorry to say that’s everything we’ve got to share so we’ll leave you with Adam’s final words of wisdom on the night: “To be happy for a day: drink, to be happy for a year: marry, to be happy for life: become a gardener”.

Prepared by the WCA Victorian Chapter Committee