Oz the great and powerful
Operating in a highly competitive market, top-selling Australian wine brands have nevertheless managed to record impressive growth over the past 18 months. ShelfLife caught up with leading wine distributors to learn more about what their Australian portfolios have to offer
14 July 2015
Australia is the best-selling country of origin in Ireland, with 1.6 million 9L cases of wine sold in 2013 alone. In 2014, Australia saw a rise of 1.9% in both the volume and value of wine exports, according to the latest Wine Export Approval Report from December 2014, released by the Australian Grape and Wine Authority (AGWA). The total Australian wine export volume increased by 1.9% to 700 million litres and the total value increased by the same rate; the first time exports have risen in value since the global recession took hold in 2007. AGWA’s acting chief executive Andreas Clark said the premium price segments saw the strongest growth throughout the year, which was “a major contributing factor” towards the wine industry’s overall “encouraging” results.
Small winery making big waves
Deakin Estate is the small Australian winery that has made big waves worldwide.
Not only do the company’s grapes come mostly from its own vineyards, ensuring above average quality control from start to finish, but all of Deakin Estate’s wines are sourced and produced entirely within a small 350ha area of the Murray Darling region in North Victoria.
This is an incredible feat given that comparable competitors in this price bracket source their grapes from the huge 2,000km expanse of South Eastern Australia, often blending between regions, hundreds if not thousands of kilometres from each other.
The brand believes the result is that Deakin Estate’s wines are lighter, balanced and more subtle wines with real regional character – a far cry from the confected ‘fruit bombs’ that so regularly dominate this price point.
This price-quality ratio has not gone unnoticed, of course, with the National Off-Licence Association (NOFFLA) Wine Awards recently singling out two Deakin Estate wines for special merit.
The Deakin Estate Chardonnay is the current holder of the New World White Under €10 award, with the judges noting its “assertive melon and tropical fruits with a touch of white pepper on the finish … this is full-bodied, very tasty, and unbelievably good value”.
Meanwhile its red ‘brother’, the Deakin Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, holds the matching New World Red Under €10 title, with the judges remarking – somewhat lyrically – that “this is a big soft hug in a glass of wine!”
Deakin Estate’s Irish importer, Findlater Wine & Spirit Group, realises the unique offering of this quality winery and so regularly supports key stores to help drive the brand. Talk to your local Findlater Wine Specialist to find out more.
Q & A with…
Wolf Blass brand manager, Michelle O’Sullivan
The wine category is hugely competitive, how do you differentiate your products in such a crowded space?
Wolf Blass carries the iconic Eagle, which has been the centrepiece of every marketing campaign for the last 15 years. To ensure the brand stands out we consistently invest in above-the-line, backed up with shopper insights and in-store execution. Our focus is ensuring in-store presence, which enables us to be successful at selling Wolf Blass wines in the impulse channel. The hot topic continues to be digital; however we have increased our investment in in-store and shopper marketing – when you’re competing in a crowded space, it’s vital to ensure you hit all the right notes as close to purchase as possible.
How are Wolf Blass wines currently performing within the Irish market, and delivering on current consumer trends?
Wolf Blass is one of Ireland’s most recognised wine brands and has a market share within the Australian wine category of 17%, making it the number two brand*. Wolf Blass is growing in a difficult market with sales reaching €17 million**. This can be largely attributed to its high quality relative to price and the investment in added value; Wolf Blass is the Official Wine Partner to Leinster Rugby. In 2015 we have even stronger NPD with Eaglehawk Sauvignon Blanc being launched as well as a PET quarter bottle which will see us available at outdoor events this summer. We are also increasing our marketing investment as we look to drive even more growth in the wine category.
What marketing initiatives have you planned over the coming months?
This year Wolf Blass will be increasing marketing spend as it looks to drive sales. In line with the start of the new rugby season in September, Wolf Blass will be launching a national campaign that will include TV bursts around matches, an ongoing digital campaign and in-store activation. Retailers are advised to stock up on Wolf Blass as it will be top of mind with consumers for the rest of the year. In August we will be welcoming the chief winemaker Chris Hatcher to Ireland, his hugely anticipated visit involves a full schedule of radio interviews, consumer events, tastings, and much more. We will also be announcing some exciting news about our new autumn campaign.
Which is the most popular Wolf Blass varietal currently on the Irish market, and why has it achieved this success?
Chardonnay is the best performing varietal across the Wolf Blass range. It offers something different to traditional Chardonnays as its more fruit-driven and lighter. As consumers become better educated and more sophisticated about wine, they are constantly looking to trial new things without compromising on value or quality. Wolf Blass prides itself on staying ahead of trends; its success in producing great Chardonnay is a good example. Australian Chardonnay cannot be spoken about without mentioning the Wolf Blass Yellow Label Chardonnay. Around the world, Wolf Blass is also renowned for other grape varieties including Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Sauvignon Blanc, leading to awards such as International Wine Brand of Year 2013 and Red Wine Maker of Year 2013.
*(Source: Nielsen Ireland Scantrack Service, 6 month sales Mar 2015)
** Nielsen Ireland Scantrack Service, MAT Mar 2015)
Conal Cassidy, director of Wines for C&C Gleeson
How is C&C Gleeson’s Australian portfolio currently performing in the Irish market and what are the main factors behind these brands’ success here?
C&C Gleeson has been representing [yellow tail] wines in Ireland for many years and we have seen a significant growth over the last 18 months. With distribution outlets in both the on and off-trade, we are seeing a strong, loyal following from our customers and in turn, their consumers.
[yellow tail] wines consistently deliver a quality product at a competitive price. This is a key selling point for the brand. Consumers can rely on [yellow tail] to be an easy to drink wine that can be enjoyed with or without food and of course, with friends and family. The brand’s fun, quirky personality appeals to a wide consumer base, male and female, developing and knowledgeable wine fans, and of course the fun, unpretentious consumer who likes to add a little colour to their day.
Grant Burge, the Australian winemakers from the Barossa have been producing wine since 1855. The family-run winery focuses on producing high quality wines for markets around the world. C&C Gleeson has represented Grant Burge in Ireland since 2005. The business has focused on developing the Grant Burge range through our on-trade distribution networks. The brand has been growing from strength to strength as consumers look for different Australian producers.
Earlier this year the Grant Burge winery was bought by Accolade Wines, which was delighted to add this well-known Australian brand to its already extensive portfolio. This month saw C&C Gleeson affirm its status as the country’s leading distributor of wines and the exclusive distributor of Accolade Wines in Ireland, a superb addition to our own portfolio of wines.
Accolade Wines is the fourth largest wine company in the world and Australia’s largest winemaker. Its key markets are the UK and Australia and Accolade Wines represents brands from the top wine regions of the world including; Hardy’s, Banrock Station, Kumala, Echo Falls and Mud House. The introduction of the Accolade brands to the C&C Gleeson portfolio means we now represent two of the five largest Australian wine brands in Ireland. We are thrilled to work with Accolade as we continue to develop the Irish wine market with our extensive portfolio.
How have your Australian brands including Hardy’s, [yellow tail] and Banrock Station delivered innovation within the wine sector in recent years?
The [yellow tail] brand is in itself an innovation as it was developed and launched in 2001. From here the small Australian brand has grown to be the number one imported wine into the US market. The Casella family winemakers strive to improve their techniques and production through innovative methods and a state of the art winery in Yenda, NSW.
The most innovative of all the brands has to be Banrock Station. This well-known brand focuses on giving back to the Australian and global environment. Part of the proceeds from the sale of every bottle of Banrock Station wine goes towards environmental projects across the world. To date the winemakers have donated £2.5m to 98 environmental projects in 13 countries. The brand is currently focusing on a European project; Saving Danish Butterflies in cooperation with the Danish Society for Nature Conservation, to which is has already donated €10,000.
The winery focuses on sustainability and implemented an Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD) programme when the site was developed in 1998. This is a unique focus of the winery, the staff and the brand values.
How do brands such as [yellow tail] achieve the right balance between providing value-for-money for consumers and still providing margin for retailers?
Great brands like [yellow tail] focus on their consumer and what they want. By offering a consistent quality wine that covers the most popular varietals, this allows the brand to focus its marketing efforts on its core market.
[yellow tail] is a fun, quirky brand that likes to add a little colour to the consumer’s day. We implemented competitive pricing across our distribution channels and build the brand through consumer communications and strategic price promotions with the right channels. [yellow tail] as a brand is more than just wine, it’s a lifestyle, a choice, sociable and all about enjoying life together. Engaging with fans at the full retail price assures our retailers that they will secure their margins and we can keep the high demand for the product.
Brands that sit within this price category must be competitively priced to secure and retain their place in the market. Strategic price promotions throughout the year will allow retailers to maintain their margin but also attract new and loyal consumers to engage with the brands.
What are the main aspects of each of your Australian brands’ Irish marketing campaigns for 2015?
2015 will be a busy and exciting year for C&C Gleeson’s wine team. We have already got a lot planned for our existing wines within the portfolio, from direct consumer engagements and digital activations to consumer loyalty rewards and recruitment drives, which will ensure that our wine brands are always front of mind for Irish consumers. Now with the introduction of the Accolade portfolio to the family, we can aim to use all of these great brands to educate and grow the Irish wine market.
The Irish market has so much potential and we have begun to see how consumers are getting interested in wine again. It is important that the Irish industry works together to return the market to its glory that we saw in the early 2000s.
C&C Gleeson acknowledges how important the off-trade is to our business and we will be delivering activity and supporting these channels through our wine brands throughout the year.