Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: Aussie Wineries Guilty of French Folly

Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: Aussie Wineries Guilty of French Folly

Article excerpt

It was a brutally warm day last Tuesday in Melbourne. But the temperature was even hotter inside the city's Exhibition Centre where the Winemakers' Federation of Australia was holding its annual Outlook conference. Kicking off the event, and boy do I mean kicking, was Tesco's director of beer, wine and spirits, Dan Jago.

Jago didn't pull any punches during his 30-minute session. First, he accused the Australian wine producers of complacency: 'For too long you have been saying, 'This is good because it is Australian'.' Then he challenged the audience to alter its approach. 'I would also urge you to make your wines lighter and more refreshing. Wines with 13% or 14% alcohol just aren't exciting any more, and customers are looking to the Old World for more refreshing wines.'

Finally, he pointed out the urgent need for staying up to date. 'If you don't change, others will change faster,' he said, and pointed to both South American and South African wineries as evidence of strengthening New World competition for the British market.

To say that the Australian winemakers in the room weren't impressed with Jago's presentation would be an understatement. Rick Burge, of the Burge Family Winemakers in the Barossa Valley, spoke for many in the room 'The British have a grocer's mentality. They want Australian quality at Chilean prices. I don't want to be dictated to about flavour by a British supermarket.'

Hunter Valley winemaker Bruce Tyrrell, who supplies Tesco with a number of wines, was more succinct. 'He's a wanker. He should go back to selling dog food. For years, the Australian wine industry has been supplying the British with technically correct wines that have good colour and are full of flavour, compared with the Europeans, who have been supplying them with technically poor wines with no colour and taste like cat's piss.'

There are three good reasons why the Australian winemakers in the room were in the wrong. First, as a general rule of business, it makes no sense to mess with Tesco. It accounts for 25% of all the wine sold in the UK, which is the biggest single market for Aussie wines.

Second, Tesco knows wine consumption and is closer to British consumers than Australian winemakers. If Jago is certain that consumers will be looking for lighter wines, he is not expressing his own personal taste. It is almost a certainty that he speaks for the British market. …

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