Canberra wines are attracting the attention of importers in Japan and Korea, with Lerida Estate Winery general manager Andrew McFadzean feeling very optimistic about the future of local produce following a recent visit to the region.
“In Korea in particular, the response and feedback to our wine at the tastings we did was off the charts,” Andrew said.
“Their enthusiasm for learning about wines and discovering new things is enormous.”
Andrew said wine consumption in both countries – despite their traditional beer, sake and shochuin drinkers – had taken off in recent years and created a niche market for quality wines that came in at a higher price point.
He said importers were seeking boutique wines with an “air of prestige” rather than buying wine in bulk, which was ideally suited to producers in the Canberra wine region.
“The amount of wine produced in Canberra is small, but the standard is incredibly high,” Andrew said.
“The prestige Korean and Japanese markets offer key opportunities to showcase Canberra wines which, from a quality perspective, are absolutely world class.
“We’re very much interested in finding those engaged consumers who are curious and want unique experiences with wines – and I think Canberra offers a unique offering like no other.”
Canberra wines are enjoyed all over the world, including the USA, UK and China, however exports have dropped off over the past four or five years due to the limited quantity of wine produced.
“We were hit with a few years of bad weather so our inventory was down, but now we’ve got more wine in the shed, so we’re making a solid investment in rebuilding pathways into existing and new export markets,” Andrew said.
“Just about every Canberra wine producer has a product that is export ready from a quality and style perspective, but volume is a different story.”
He said a shift in demand would provide local producers with an opportunity to sell their wine at a good price into the export market.
“There’s an assumption out there that export wines must be sold cheaply and in bulk. Don’t believe that! Selling a smaller amount of great wine at a higher price point makes it really desirable.
“Canberra is limited in its ability to grow wine. Geographically, we are very small and don’t have that capacity to produce a lot of wine, so it’s not going to ever be over-supplied – which works in our favour.
“Canberra wine has that air of prestige and it would not take much to start influencing demand around the world.
“If we can get exposure in the right place, with the right people, it will have a huge impact on Canberra’s wine industry as a whole.”
Our market was hit hard when China imposed tariffs on all Australian wine imports and Canberra wine sales to China almost ground to a halt.
But Andrew said he was “feeling positive about improvements in the China market”.
“We are positioning to be ready to go should things change,” he said.
Lerida Estate is also looking to step up sales into the UK market – the oldest and arguably most sophisticated wine market in the world.
“The UK is a place where you can be discovered because there are buyers there and industry professionals there that people listen to,” Andrew said after his return from London.
Again, he expects Canberra wines to shine in the high-end niche market because people want to know the story behind their wines and where they come from.
More wine consumers are doing their own online research about different wine regions around the world, including Canberra’s small, but impressive 300-hectare industry.
And Andrew said they were “getting excited”.
While local exporters such as Clonakilla Winery had done a great job establishing a beachhead for Canberra wines, Andrew hoped more producers would take the leap.
“I think the more producers we get on board, the better it will be for everyone.”
Canberra winemakers are fortunate to receive support from the New South Wales Wine Industry Association as well as assistance from the ACT Government and, due to proximity, Federal Government departments including Austrade.
“We have a pretty unique advantage because, while we have to look broadly for support, we also have a lot of connections close to home,” Andrew said.
“I’m excited for the next five to 10 years. It won’t be easy, but we’re in it for the long haul.”
Lerida Estate Winery sits in Cullerin Range 30 minutes from Canberra and produces a range of exceptional, unique, cool climate wines made from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Shiraz, Riesling and more.