Thirty years ago Australian wine was money in the bank for retailers. Bring in anything Australian and have no fear, the stuff will sell and when that inventory is gone, re-order something else from down under.
But no more. Australia doesn't sell any more. What happened? Who or what pulled the plug?
Here are six possible explanations:
1. The Yellow Tail Effect. This is actually a no-brainer. When the cheap stuff with the catchy label arrived on these shores, the more expensive stuff stopped selling. Cause and effect. We live in a mass market world marketplace where those pipers call the tunes. If they can do enough things right with their pitch and the stuff in the bottle is palatable, well, the rest is history.
2. The Quality. Back in the mid-eighties when the first wave from Australia arrived, the quality was ridiculous. Inexpensive wines were way too good, as in twice as good as California at any price point...and that's my point. It's the oldest trick in the wine book. Make it too good at first to get your foot in the door and then cheapen it over time. Yellow Tail has done the same thing. They're just better marketers.
3. The Marketing. Australia flooded the eighties market with the cheap stuff and never marketed the exceptional stuff the way other wine countries do so the great whites other than Chardonnay never got promoted and they were better than the Chards. The great reds were promoted in the nineties but the appellation system, the distinct regions of origin, never got the promotion it deserved so by the nineties average wine lovers' perception of Australia was that they only made cheap wine.
4. The 2008 Recession. Everyone took a mega-hit in 2008 but the currency exchange rate with Australia post-2008 seemed to impact trade more so than with other nations.
5. The Style. This is a personal theory of mine. Any wine style that is blatantly over the top, exceeding the norms of international wine standards, that wine style is not going to last. Australian reds have always been extreme fruit bombs. Perhaps too extreme for most wine lovers. I wonder how many people filled their cellars with the stuff and then burned out on the style.
6. And now for the real crusher...Global Warming. The Australian vineyard environment is warm to begin with. And now it's getting warmer. Grapes ripen earlier leading to increased sugars leading to wines with higher alcohol levels leading to the wine styles just mentioned. So while climate change is probably not responsible for the failures to date, if this climate thing doesn't change, the Australian wine industry may end up on the industry chopping block.
On Thursday the 11th of May at 5pm Ted Fields joins us with a tasting of Spanish reds. Please join us.