Australian Cultural Wine Cringe?

Winemaker Stephen Pannell has called upon Oz wine consumers to take the pledge and reject foreign wines this coming January. Pannell reasons that as foreign imports have grown, local winemakers have suffered financially and that wine grapes have been left to rot on the vines.

He suggests we have to get over our cultural cringe and instead support the local industry by drinking more Australian wine.

I don’t see any evidence to support the alleged cultural cringe effect and I can’t see that in the short to medium term a few weeks boycott of imports will have any significant impact on Australian made wine sales.

There are other more obvious reasons for the popularity of imports. For example, I used to believe that Australian wine was better value for money than imported wine at any price point. That is, you could buy a locally made wine for say, $20 and be fairly confident that any imported wine bought for $20 at the same shop would not offer the same quality.

Not any more. And in a strange way it’s partly the fault of the Australian wine industry.

In recent decades, supported by soaring overseas sales, winemakers have been happy to profit from the resultant increase in price of their wine on the local market. Now, with the boost in the value of the Australian dollar, and with increased competition from new world wine makers, Australian exports have become dearer for overseas buyers and that market has begun to dry up.

As Australian wine exports have become less competitive overseas, imported wines have become cheaper. And, using modern technology (provided by Australia in many cases), imported wines have improved significantly in quality.

It is not surprising then that Australian consumers have turned to imports in their quest for affordable variety and diversity. This is not a cultural cringe. It is a free market based on supply and demand.

I always thought that the strength and success of the Australian wine market was based on offering punters quality product at a competitive price, not on appeals to provincialism. Just shows how much I know about marketing.

See also Aussie petition accused of protectionism and Kiwi wine stays popular with Aussies.

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