Tuesday, July 31, 2007

13th. Australian Wine Industry Technical Conference

I am currently at the Australian Wine Industry Technical Conference. It has (so far) been a very interesting experience. There are a number of problems that are going face the Australian wine industry in the future. The current problem is of course the ongoing drought and the potential for increased salinity as we come out of it. We will also have problems once the drought does finally end, of a continuation of over supply. One of the big issues I think is going to face our industry is the notion of ‘food miles’. Because we are located a long way from our major markets, I believe the Aussie industry will need to demonstrate that we are doing everything possible to reduce our carbon emissions. This may be a fairly difficult sell to our consumers, considering the mixed messages they will be getting from some of our competitors.
I believe the future of the Aussie wine industry lies in us being able to successfully sell wine produced by small producers that is unique and reflects the characteristics of the areas in which it has been grown. While the large wine companies produce large volumes of ‘product of SE Australia’ type wines, we will always be locked into the lower price points of the large supermarkets. Australia can and does produce some of the best wines in the world – we need to build on this, but not by trying to reproduce wines that are the same year after year or region to region. We should be promoting our individuality, possibly right down to wines from individual vineyards. Then as producers we should be able to be paid the true value of our grapes. Another problem we as producers have (and it affects our consumers too) is the length of our supply chains. I see a huge potential for the Internet to enable producers like us to interact directly with our consumers, this has the potential to work very well on the small scales I mentioned above. It would be a win-win for both produces and consumers, producers would be able to set their own prices, and I suspect, consumers will find they are paying less for their wine. There would be some very unhappy middle men out there though, but then they can keep on fighting each other for the large customers who are only interested in their bottom line and not on the wine.
We have also spent a large amount of time discussing the future impact climate change will have on the world wine industry. This is looking very worrying, but I will write some more about this in the next few days.

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