Australian wine chief tips US as ‘outstanding opportunity’ for wine

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Top Australian wine producer Neil McGuigan says the US market is a “sleeping giant” when it comes to wine consumption, and predicts its growth will outpace China in the next few years.

Australian Vintage's Neil McGuigan

Australian Vintage’s Neil McGuigan

Australian Vintage’s chief executive Neil McGuigan believes the United States is a

Speaking to Harpers.co.uk at London Wine Fair last week, McGuigan, chief executive of Australian Vintage, said as US consumption grows, it will run out of wine and have to source elsewhere, offering “outstanding opportunities” for producers.

McGuigan said the UK was still the group’s most important market, and that it would continue to invest even in the tough times, but added that Asia is very important and New Zealand is showing good growth.

“Canada should be five times the size it is, and we’re still not selling in the US. That’s a problem but also a huge opportunity. I can just smell that it’s starting to change. There’s more excitement about Australia than there has been since I started. The Americans have got on to wine. In five years consumption has gone from 8.7 litres per head to 9.2 litres. That’s 165 million litres. They will run out of wine. California is under the pump. It won’t happen in two minutes but it will happen. America is the sleeping giant. There will be outstanding opportunities.   

“In the short term we’re working on that. China will happen but I don’t know whether it will happen as quickly as America. We have to take China on a wine journey, and that will be harder than the US.”

The firm has just launched its high end Philosophy wine in the UK, which has a £100 price tag and which McGuigan believes will raise the bar within the whole company.

“Making a AU$10 wine is not that difficult – and complacency can set in. But if you want to make a AU$150 bottle – that lifts the bar in every way across the company. The culture in the business changes.  It’s about excellence.”

McGuigan said the group started making premium wines 10 years ago and wants to “take people on a wine journey” to its Philosophy brand with Shortlist and Handmade lines.

“We wanted to take the lead in the Australian wine industry – it’s a beautifully balanced Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz blend. We tried to make Australian Claret, we did not want to make French Claret. It has power but finesse.”

McGuigan said it was difficult to push people to “pay more and get less” in terms of punchy flavours, and brands needed to talk to customers to educate them. “That’s why finding the right partner is very important.”

Read our Q&A with Neil McGuigan and Australian Vintage’s UK general manager Julian Dyer here.

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