Monday, June 24, 2013

Guest Post: Why Tasmania Does Not Need More GI’s


 
In response to my piece last week arguing for a more formal carving up of regions within Tasmania, Paul Smart has penned the below counter-argument. Paul is a viticulturalist and winemaker at Pressing Matters (www.pressingmatters.com.au) in Tasmania.
 

I have been making wine now for 15 years in various places around Australia, with the last 7 years based here in Hobart, Tasmania, and with no wish of ever moving away.  Tasmania is a great place to live and a great place to make wine.  I will be here for a long time and as such I take a great interest in the future of the industry, not only for my winemaking wife and I, but also for our son.

I am writing this post in response to several views that been expressed about Tasmania needing to be split up from its current one GI (it actually is not a GI, but a State, technical difference) to multiple GI’s.  This could involve 4 GI’s based on the Wine Tasmania Touring Guide: North West, South, East and Tamar Valley, or even more to include other areas (eg. Derwent Valley, Upper Derwent Valley, Coal River, Huon, etc.). So why do we not need to carve up the State?

The first point is that the State is small, not in grand size, but in terms of wine production and area planted.  We currently sit 15th place of a crowded marketplace of 43 GI’s.

 
Region
2010 ha
 
Region
2010 ha
 
Region
2010 ha
1
Riverina
20,154
16
Heathcote
1,245
31
Granite Belt
331
2
Riverland
20,009
17
Geographe
1,181
32
Swan Hill (NSW)
308
3
Barossa Valley
9,763
18
Adelaide Plains
880
33
Tumbarumba
254
4
Murray Darling - VIC
8,339
19
Pyrenees
874
34
Gippsland
235
5
Murray Darling - NSW
6,533
20
Rutherglen
853
35
Macedon Ranges
224
6
McLaren Vale
6,490
21
Swan District
784
36
Southern Highlands
202
7
Langhorne Creek
5,957
22
Bendigo
771
37
Henty
183
8
Margaret River
4,894
23
Mornington Peninsula
752
38
Sunbury
129
9
Clare Valley
4,801
24
Perricoota
671
39
Peel
96
10
Swan Hill (VIC)
3,869
25
Geelong
515
40
The Peninsulas
93
11
Adelaide Hills
3,861
26
Grampians
506
41
Kangaroo Island
89
12
Hunter
3,450
27
Hilltops
484
42
Beechworth
57
13
Great Southern
2,804
28
Southern Fleurieu
414
43
Shoalhaven Coast
40
14
Yarra Valley
2,440
29
Gundagai
408
 
15
Tasmania
1,251
30
Strathbogie Ranges
369
 
 
 

Should we carve up into 4 GI’s, then we would be around the size of the Granite Belt, Swan Hill or Tumbarumba, regions that don’t have as much brand presence as others larger than Tasmania.  Carve it up even more and we become even less significant. 

Second point is that we are the only GI in Australia that is actually a State.  This means we have one entire State Government promoting and supporting one entire GI.  Should we split up, then each GI would compete with each of the other GI’s for the same source of funding and support. 

Third point is that to split us up, we would need to create multiple organisations to run them, each trying to promote Brand “insert GI name”, instead of how we are all currently focused, Brand Tasmania.  This splitting of resources would create inefficiencies and wastage, and would dilute the excellent job that Wine Tasmania is doing.

Fourth point is the marketing angle.  The argument that “if we can create separate areas, we can market better” is invalid.  A lot of producers are using local identifiers already, or Sub GI’s, such as Pressing Matters stating on their front label Coal River, Tasmania.  This works for high involvement consumers who want a more technical story.  But the majority of consumer don’t have a high involvement, and only remember large wine regions (ie. Barossa, Margaret River).  Dr Armando Corsi of the University of South Australia Marketing School has research that shows that “brand loyalty comes with greater share of the market”.  That can extend to Brand Tasmania loyalty, carve our share into multiple pieces and carve up the loyalty.

Fifth point is that Tasmania is a very hard place to grow grapes with multiple challenges. Some years some areas can get wiped out.  But by drawing lines through the State you are limiting individual companies from buying fruit from elsewhere in dire times. 

Sixth point, how do you draw the lines?  Can you just draw willy nilly on a map?  What about delineating by style?  There is no distinct, consistent style similarity within areas, nor a style difference between areas. This carve up process would divide people and create ill will within a small industry. 

So in summary I don’t think we need to be talking about this until we grow four fold.  I think we should keep pushing the wheelbarrow of Brand Tasmania, as collaboration is much better than division.  The current system of using local identifiers works for high involvement consumers, and maybe we could formalise some Sub-GI’s in the future (cost?). Tasmania has a bright future, and I can’t wait for the ride!

 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

We need more GIs: Tasmanian Wine


Well no I am not talking about Greg Inglis, though if we could clone him to help my struggling NRL team the Tigers, I wouldn’t say no. In this instance I am talking about Geographical Indications, which formally identify wines as originating from a region or locality. Specifically, I’m thinking of Tasmania, which simply has one GI for the whole of the state.

I’ve been meaning to write this piece for a while, and as is often the case these days, a twitter conversation a little while back provided the motivation I needed to actually better articulate my thoughts. The discussion was between a number of Tasmanian winemakers, and the debate basically boiled down to those who thought brand Tasmania had served them well and that consumers weren’t necessarily ready for change, and those who think it’s well past time for Tasmania to join the rest of Australia in highlighting and celebrating the diversity that is on offer from specific regions and sub regions.

Of course Tasmania has plenty of people excited. It is an area of huge vinous potential. Sparkling wine and Pinot Noir are the standouts. One of the key things it lacks, however, is any real distinction and delineation between regions. For other states, names like Barossa, Yarra, and Hunter are well known beyond just the world of regular wine drinkers. And they are known for specific styles of wines. If you asked the average wine drinker to name a Tasmanian wine region, however, I think they would struggle. Maybe it hasn’t appeared to be necessary because Tasmania is perceived as a small state in land mass and therefore referring to a wine as being from Tasmania has been seen to be distinction enough. Maybe a couple of decades ago that was sufficient given how nascent the industry was at that point, and indeed a positive from a marketing perspective in the sense that Tasmania is viewed as the clean, green state.

In 2013, however, it is far from sufficient. From a viticultural perspective, Tasmania is a huge region. Its landmass can easily overlay an area in Victoria from Geelong, up to Heathcote across to Rutherglen, and down to Gippsland. No one would ever seriously discuss these 4 wine regions in the same breath, beyond the fact that they happen to be in one state, given that they all produce distinctive wines. The fact we now actually have identifiable regions in Tasmania just reinforces this. Wine Tasmania talk of a wine trail that includes Coal River, Huon, and the Derwent in the South. There are the east coast wineries around Freycinet. In the north, proximate to Launceston there is the Tamar Valley, while there are another lot of wineries around Devonport in the northwest. Now I don’t propose that these should necessarily be the GI’s. There may be better, more logical configurations, and I’m nowhere near versed enough in the geography and intricacies of Tasmanian wine to offer up strong views on the specifics of the GIs. Suffice to say a cursory glance at a map, and knowledge that Tasmania is not one large flat tundra, is enough to tell you that one GI for the entire state is not enough.

This isn’t to say that you go from one extreme to another, and have to completely ignore brand Tasmania. Far from it. There’s a positive association with almost any produce that comes from Tasmania, and wine is no different in this regard. But ultimately saying your wine comes from Tasmania doesn't provide much more distinction than producing a wine of Victoria, South Australia, or any other state. To continue the comparison with Victoria, the second smallest state, try talking intelligently about Victorian Pinot Noir as a whole. It's a bit of a meaningless exercise. Break it down however by Yarra Pinot, Mornington Pinot, Macedon Pinot etc. and you start having a meaningful conversation and meaningful differentiation. Consider the sub regions of Red Hill, Merricks, and Tuerong in the Mornington Peninsula and there is a real level of interest and understanding that comes with your drinking. This increasing regional and sub-regional articulation has happened through the rest of Australian wine in recent times and it has been an entirely positive development. There’s no logical reason to my mind why this shouldn’t happen with Tasmania.

There are those who believe that Tasmania will end up making some of Australia’s greatest wine. Undoubtedly vine age, and greater winemaking experience will go a long way to this potential realisation. Greater regionalisation needs to be a part of this march as well.


Red
 
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