04/21/09 – saving the Australian wine industry

By Jesse on April 15, 2009

In a recent article, Slate wine columnist Mike Steinberger described the difficulties currently being experienced by the Australian wine industry. Besides the myriad problems suffered by the good ol’ global economy, there’s also the issue of the ridiculous weather (droughts, fires, etc.) that has ravaged Australia. According to Steinberger, however, the main problem lies with the industry itself: it became synonymous with mass-produced “critter” bottles, and can’t figure out how to get out of that rut, even as it faces increased competition from new budget-minded regions like Argentina and South Africa.

The big culprit, it seems, is Yellow Tail, which allegedly accounts for a full 50 percent of Australian wine imports to the United States. With its recognizable wallaby mascot and its homogeneous bottle shapes (all Bordeaux bottles, even on grapes that usually come in Burgundy bottles, like Chardonnay), Yellow Tail has carved out a huge chunk of the domestic budget market, and is doing just fine. The rest of the industry, however, is feeling the squeeze: now that so many Americans associate Australia with animal-themed bottles that sell for $10 or less, there’s suddenly no more market for Australia’s more serious offerings.

Let’s do something about that, shall we?

For this meeting, please bring any bottle of Australian wine purchased for $15 or more. Over the past year, sales of Australian wine costing $15 and up have declined 17 percent since last year, a huge drop. It’s unfortunate, too, because Australian wines in the $15 – $30 range can still offer some of the world’s best values in that price range. Let’s try to find some.

You’ve got plenty of options for this meeting. White or red, rosé or sparkling, even dessert wines — all are fair game. Maybe a Sémillon from the Hunter Valley, or a Chardonnay from Margaret River? Or perhaps an inky Shiraz from McLaren Vale? Or maybe one of those crazy blends the Aussies are known for? Beyond the $15-and-up specification, we’ve got one more rule for this meeting: no animal bottles! It was the critters that caused this problem in the first place, and we’ve got to prove to the industry that twenty-something consumers don’t need animals on our bottles of Aussie vino.

Get some ideas from the Steinberger article, or ask your favorite wine merchant. (If you choose to bring a cash donation for this meeting, lets make it $15 to be fair to those who are bringing bottles.)

We’ll be meeting at Jason’s nautical apartment in Brentwood. The RSVP system functions like this: if you want in, you click on this link and tell me so (don’t forget your full name, e-mail address, and a cute message conveying to me your intentions). If you’re denied entry due to a meeting exceeding capacity, don’t worry — you’ll be at the top of the list the next week.

Once you’ve gotten your confirmation e-mail, go find yourself an Australian bottle, sans animal, costing at least $15 — or plan to bring a $15 no-bottle fee. We’ll see y’all at Jason’s on Tuesday night.