China thirst grows wine export

By Country News

Booming exports to China have seen the Australian wine industry achieve record export levels, adding more than $2.56billion in value last year.

The new figures released by Wine Australia reveal that exports to China have increased by more than half to $848million, an increase of 63 per cent, while the overall exports to north-east Asia increased by 47 per cent to more than $1billion for the first time.

The export value of the industry has increased by 15 per cent, the highest annual growth rate in the sector since 2004, with volume also increasing by eight per cent to 811million litres.

‘‘Growing demand for premium Australian wine, particularly in north-east Asia, increased the value of bottled wine exports by 17 per cent to $2.1billion, while the average price per litre for bottled wine grew by three per cent to a record $5.36,’’ Wine Australia chief executive officer Andreas Clark said.

While wines valued at $15 to $19.99 took a huge hit, losing more than $10million in value, the higher priced $20 to $29.99 range more than made up for the loss, adding 60 per cent and almost $50million in value to the industry.

Mr Clark said it was notable that exports of wines priced above $10 per litre grew by 29 per cent to a record $738million.

Corop winery Lake Cooper Estate, which produces wines including chardonnay, shiraz and cabernet, has been exporting overseas for the past three years.

The winery’s Tony Lee said while many clients preferred French wine, there was growing demand for Australian wines.

He said explaining the story of where the wine came from and discussing the winery itself had been key to entering the export market.

‘‘We have found it is important to let consumers understand your product, especially when the product is from other countries,’’ he said.

‘‘We’re doing the same things when we introduce our wine to the market; we do not just tell the stories about our business and wines ... we present to our clients a lot of information about the Heathcote wine regions such as the soil, land, temperature, culture, and Australia winemaking traditions and drinking customs.’’

While exports to China led the way, exports to Europe, south-east Asia and Oceania also grew by a combined 11 per cent, to add $835million in value to the export market.

Conversely, exports to North America decreased by two per cent, stripping $636million in value from the industry, yet the United States still remains Australia’s second-largest market by value and volume.

Agriculture and Water Resources Assistant Minister Anne Ruston welcomed the news of the record export levels.

‘‘Australians have long known that Australian wine is second to none,’’ Ms Ruston said.

‘‘It’s wonderful to see our wine industry reinvigorate its exporting efforts to make sure the world knows it too.

‘‘Each of the top five exported wine varieties have recorded significant growth: cabernet sauvignon exports increased by 20 per cent to $341million, while shiraz rose 18 per cent to $601million and merlot went up by 17 per cent to $114million.’’