Aussie firm has Scottish plans

Communication key to growth, says Antipodean winemaker

AN Australian wine firm is eyeing growth in the Scottish on-trade after picking up the title of International Winemaker of the Year for the fourth time.

• Neil McGuigan said there’s work to do to promote Australian wine.
• Neil McGuigan said there’s work to do to promote Australian wine.

McGuigan Wines, based in Hunter Valley, New South Wales, was awarded the title at the International Wine & Spirits Competition in London last month. It also took trophies for its 2003 McGuigan BIN 9000 Semillon and its 2007 McGuigan Hand Made Shiraz at the competition; and has previously taken the Winemaker of the Year title in 2009, 2011 and 2012.
Speaking to SLTN the company’s chief winemaker, Neil McGuigan, said the business is determined to increase listings of its more premium products, which are available from wholesalers Booker and Gordon & MacPhail, in Scotland’s bars, pubs and restaurants in the coming years.
“The on-trade (in the UK) is a bit of a challenge for the Australian wine industry because, traditionally, we haven’t been there,” said McGuigan.
“We need to work hard to get our wines onto wine lists and bring over wines that will really excite the consumer.”
However, he admitted that there is still work to do to convince consumers, as well as the trade, that Australia’s best wines can compete with producers from elsewhere in the world, as well as to communicate the diversity of different wines produced in the country.  
“One thing Australia has not done well is communicating to anyone outside of Australia the diversity we have within our wine varieties,” he said.  
“If I was to ask [someone] to describe for me what Australian Shiraz is all about [they] will instantly start talking about the Barossa Valley; deep dark colour, intense oak, lots of tannin richness.
“That’s what most people think Shiraz is. But what actually comes from Australia is a whole diversity of Shiraz – everything from the Adelaide Hills, where you get this beautiful white pepper character, through to the Barossa, over to the central ranges of New South Wales, down to Canberra, where you have beautiful, elegant Shiraz.
“We have not told the consumers about the diversity we have within our varieties. It’s not just about Shiraz. It’s about Cabernet, it’s about Chardonnay, it’s about Semillon, it’s about Pinot Grigio.”
McGuigan added that it would likely be “about a decade’s work” to fully raise awareness and change perceptions of Australian wine, “but it’s a huge opportunity”.
And Australian firms aren’t the only ones who should be working to change attitudes, said McGuigan.
“The problem we’ve had in the wine industry is we can be seen as being arrogant – that wine is something you need to know a lot about before you can order one,” he said.
“We don’t want wine to be like that at all. We don’t want wine to be elitist. We want people to enjoy wine, love wine, and embrace it.
“We want to take them on a journey and make them feel comfortable.”
The company’s UK and European general manager, Julian Dyer, said McGuigan Wines already has a significant presence in the Scottish off-trade.
“Our brand actually over-indexes within Scotland, generally,” said Dyer.  
“I’d like to think that will lead to stronger sales in the on-trade, though it’s safe to say that’s a work in progress because we haven’t yet seen the success that we’ve enjoyed in the off-trade.”
“But that’s something we are focused on.”