A Rabobank study on the global market for premium wine has found that while some producers are failing to capitalise on a growing demand for quality drops, others are swapping traditional retail outlets for online channels, opening a world of new markets and marketing opportunities.
The study report, Premium Wine - It's A Long Way To The Top, found that this generation’s consumers, in Australian and overseas, have a greater awareness of wine – and particularly of top-quality wine – than any previous generation. But with a veritable glut of producers around the world all keen to maximise their share of the premium market, winemakers must work smarter to make their products stand out from the crowd.
They have the best chance of doing that, contends Rabobank senior analyst and report author Marc Soccio, by going digital, pushing regional identity and telling a convincing, evocative story about their wines.
Australian wine producers frequently fail to see farm gate returns because big grocery retailers and supermarkets have ‘cornered the domestic market’, limiting their access, contends Soccio. "What we're seeing is this sort of contrast in the market, where not all premium wine producers are really benefiting from these sorts of trends," he says.
Some savvy wine producers are sidestepping the problem, forgoing traditional retail outlets in favour of digital marketing and online sales.
"What we are seeing, interestingly, is the online wine channel gathering more and more momentum," says Socchio. "And we see that as … an opportunity for smaller premium wine producers to connect with consumers."
According to Rabobank's findings, developing a strong online customer base depends on marketing your wines effectively and promoting a distinctive regional profile.
That is certainly the case for winemakers in Western Australia’s renowned Margaret River region, which is in itself a selling point. "Everybody in a marketplace is looking for product differentiation,” notes Margaret River Wine Association CEO Nick Power. "[Regions allow] the stories to be told about your sense of place, and the wines and the people making the wines from that area of Australia.”
Over in South Australia, Taylors Wines has invested 15 years and substantial effort in developing top-quality wine production practice and packaging to create its ultra-premium product. Taylors’ head of marketing Cameron Crowley says much of the brand’s success is attributable to selling the story of its wine.
Crowley contends that wine needs a ‘realness' to capture consumers’ attention in a noisy marketplace. "It's an agricultural product, it's of the earth, and there's a level of connoisseurship and knowledge which I think is very important to people," he asserts. “[Premium winemakers] need to create a story that [consumers] are going to want to share."