07/06/2005 - 22:00

A toast to improving relationships

07/06/2005 - 22:00


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The need for continued export growth and a wake-up call to state and federal governments were the two stand-out issues at the recent Wine Industry Association of Western Australia Awards 2005.

A toast to improving relationships

The need for continued export growth and a wake-up call to state and federal governments were the two stand-out issues at the recent Wine Industry Association of Western Australia Awards 2005.

The local wine community’s night of nights is an opportunity to recognise outstanding achievement and excellence within the industry.

WIAWA president John Griffiths opened proceedings, held this year at the Perth Convention Exhibition Centre, by suggesting that this year’s “mixed” vintage will form the blueprint for what will happen in the next 12 months.

“The challenge facing the industry now is to maintain the high early standards set by the pioneers of WA’s wine industry,” Mr Griffiths said.

Addressing an audience filled with the state’s pre-eminent wine talent, Mr Griffiths declared the industry’s next aim would be the production of 100,000 tonnes of grapes in a single year.

For this to eventuate, however, he called for more support from governments.

“We still have got a job to convince government of the importance of the wine industry in this state,” Mr Griffiths said.

He told the audience, which included Nationals leader Max Trenorden, that the industry was seeking “support, not handouts”, and urged the State Government to start “sowing into our industry, not just reaping from it”.

It was a point echoed by Palandri Wines chief executive officer Gordon Grant, whose company won the Excellence in Wine Exporting Award.

“The wine industry has been in amazing growth for the last four to five years,” Mr Grant said of recent export opportunities.

“Now we are looking forward to the State Government coming to the table.”

Exports were also of keen interest to Watershed Wines, the biggest winner on the night.

Watershed managing director Geoff Barrett believes that, while most export talk has centred on the US market, China is the sleeping giant of wine consumers.

Mr Barrett labels Watershed’s early forays into the Chinese market as “spectacular”, saying favourable medical literature has been responsible for much of the growth in red wine consumption in China.

Mr Barrett said he felt honoured to receive the awards for Most Outstanding Wine Brand and Most Outstanding New Winemaking Facility, but believes the most important award was that of Outstanding Commitment to Customer Service, which was won by Watershed’s Kelly Grigg.

“We’ve done it two years in a row and I think it’s an indication of the commitment to quality we have had from day one,” Mr Barrett said.

Ms Grigg said that while there was something special about the Watershed team, “the secret is being friendly”.

“Hello is a five-letter word and is so easy to say; I think that’s the key,” she said.

Both Ms Grigg and Mr Barrett believe Watershed won the award on the back of its staff’s level of knowledge about the industry.

“We think it is absolutely essential that waiters can talk about wines with the same strength as the staff at the cellar door can,” Mr Barrett said. “Knowledge is power.”

Fittingly, the Young Achiever Award went to Castle Rock Wines’ Robert Diletti. The talented winemaker and judge credits the ‘boutique qualities’ of WA’s wines as its major strength.

Similarly, Mr Diletti explained that the openness of the local wine community would strengthen it in years to come.

“I look forward to seeing more integration between the different wineries similar to the kind of communities in Barossa and such,” Mr Diletti said.

The evening’s most prestigious award – the Di Cullen Award for Outstanding Contribution by an Individual to the WA Wine Industry – went to Ted Avery, a long-time campaigner for the local wine community.

Describing recognition by his piers as a “humbling honour”, Mr Avery said:

“My time in the industry is the first step. This industry has potentially incredible things going forward. Through resources, expertise and knowledge, we can all maximise our opportunities.”

Mr Avery also highlighted the need to establish strong relationships as the foundation to the state’s wine industry.

“At the end of the day ... what gets you across the [export] line is the relationships you form. And they shouldn’t be taken lightly,” he said.

“When people are taking about our wine, they should be talking about a relationship. It will be the thing that builds our success.”


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