Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Next Frontier of Australian Wines?

This article was originally published on the Wine Communicators of Australia Blog -

The Australian wine industry Catch 22: To be unable to innovate leads to wine-making and wine industry stagnation. However, if we stop focusing on what we do well and concentrate on diversifying using alternative varieties that have their own history in their home country, Australia may lose its wine individuality and become even more of a globalised, homogenous wine producing nation. Can a middle ground be reached and if so, has it already occurred?

The next frontier of Australian wine is one where wine makers and wineries ply their trade from a position of self confidence, not self doubt, and advertise this fact in an innovative and non-traditional way. There are positive signs already, though structural and historical factors prevent Australia from realising its wine making potential.

The Australian wine industry at the moment is like a city that has reached its geographical limits and is suffering growing pains: important far reaching decisions need to be made.

Does Australian wine expand into new territory (new markets, new varieties, new styles), does it reinvigorate or consolidate what it already has (previously successful wine styles, varieties, markets) or does it try to strike a balance between the two? Regardless of the choices made by the wine industry, it will not succeed if these decisions are not made in a self confident and innovative way.

What is meant by ‘self confidence’ aside from basic definitions? – self confidence on the new Australian wine frontier is the confidence to make some mistakes in the short term trying to push the boundaries of wine excellence with the aim or aspiration to hit the highs in the long term. Take risks, try new things, have the courage to maintain and improve on traditional methods. This is has all been said before, but most importantly, the wine industry must have the self-confidence to stick with it.

In harnessing the emerging self confidence in Australian wine, the new wine information paradigm must be fully utilised. The wine maker, winery, vineyard or vintage narrative, combined with new media-assisted word of mouth is one of the key methods the Australian wine industry should use to forge a new frontier. The era of the hegemonic wine critic passing down wine style commandments from on high is coming to an end: Information is becoming more diffuse, readily accessible, and generic yet ironically also more niche. Wine consumer sub cultures, can now access more than enough information to enable them to make commercial decisions on the products they want to consume. The more innovative, versatile, agile, unique and quirky Australian wine becomes (breaking from the critter wine stereotype in the process); the easier it will be to promote this innovation using the new information paradigm.

I smile when I see an Australian winery taking a risk. If the risk works they are praised, if it fails, they wear some criticism. I applaud the wine risk takers and the innovators. In the brave new wine world, the more risk takers and skilled story tellers Australia can produce, the better-off Australian wine will be. The new frontier awaits.

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