05/04/2005 - 22:00

Burns in to boost exports

05/04/2005 - 22:00

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The Wine Industry Association of Western Australia has turned to influential American wine consultant Steve Burns to boost the industry’s disappointing recent export performance.

Burns in to boost exports

The Wine Industry Association of Western Australia has turned to influential American wine consultant Steve Burns to boost the industry’s disappointing recent export performance.

Mr Burns has been commissioned specifically for his knowledge of the lucrative American wine market.

As head of the Washington Wine Commission for eight years, Mr Burns is credited with putting that state’s wine industry ‘on the map’, having presided over a three-fold increase in the size of Washington’s wine industry.

State government funding has been secured for Mr Burns’ visit, described by WIAWA chief executive officer Sue Vidovich as “stage one” of a strategy to raise the profile of WA’s premium wines in the US.

Ms Vidovich says that once a market development plan has been finalised, further government assistance will be sought to fully implement the plan.

At issue is the WA industry’s failure to turn strong domestic demand into export opportunities.

While wines from WA make up only about 4 per cent of national wine production they account for more than 20 per cent of all premium Australian wine.

But the state’s wine export ratio stands at 11 per cent compared with the national average of 40 per cent.

Rich Hanen, president of Canadian wine company Vincor, whose portfolio includes WA companies Goundrey and Amberley, is among those backing Mr Burns’ visit.

He says local wine producers can no longer rely on strong domestic sales.

“When those figures came across my desk I saw it as a fantastic opportunity for WA wines,” he told Gusto.

And it’s an enthusiasm shared by Steve Burns, who says the US market is the key to the future of WA wines.

 “The wine market in the US is very exciting right now. The $US15-20 price range is offering so much opportunity at the moment” he says.

“Australia as a whole is very popular in the States and we love Aussie wine. But now it’s time to focus on regionality – this is the next step.”

As a brand, he says, Australian wine is sufficiently established in the US to proceed with regional differentiation, but WA wines also have to counter the impression that they ‘over-deliver in the bottle’.

 “It represents a new challenge,” Mr Burns says of promoting WA wines to the 185 million Americans over 21 years of age.

“The trick is to get the average consumer interested in them, not just the ‘cork dorks’.”

The venture will be promoted under the banner of the WIAWA’s new branding ‘Australia West – Dominion of Wine’ – a much-needed whole wine brand push, according Ms Vidovich.

Some of the state’s major grape producers, most notably Evans & Tate’s Franklin Tate, are supporting the export initiative.

For his part, Mr Burns is quick to suggest that boosting the profile of WA wines in the US will also benefit the small family-owned boutique wine producers.

“A rising tide raises all boats” he says. Mr Burns toured Great Southern wineries during his first visit to WA last week.

As well as sampling local wines, he led a discussion on the preliminary aspects of the scheme with 35 ‘export ready’ wine producers.

He plans regular visits to the state in preparation of the development strategy.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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