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Displaced Chinese exports look for new home at ATT

Published:  11 April, 2022

A slew of Australian producers which have been forced to reorient themselves following China’s government-imposed trade tariffs were on show at Australia Trade Tasting (ATT) on Thursday, where a renewed ‘buyer-only’ mentality aimed to find new homes for wineries left with major holes in distribution.

It was very much a case of back to business for Laura Jewell MW and the Wine Australia team on Thursday, which saw ATT relocate from its pre-pandemic home of B1 in Holborn to the more traditional Royal Horticultural after a two-year hiatus.

Among some 54 tables, which were shown in two slots – morning and afternoon – the hall included a new free pour section, which showcased around 100 wines from new producers seeking distribution.

“We have been larger before, previously with up to 80 to 85 tables,” said Jewell, manager for UK and Europe at Wine Australia.

“We’ve got 54 today, but that’s with a real focus on the importers, including some new people such as Wanderlust Wine and Top Selection. ABS have got their new range, which is fantastic to see, as well. We’ve also got our new-to-market area which is really because of the situation in China. There’s been a lot of focus from wineries looking for new export markets. The UK is [once again] number one in terms of volume and value for exports. So, people want to see what’s happening in the UK. Even though it’s quite a saturated market, there is still room.”

Many of these wineries form part of an upskilling initiative run by Jewell and co at the end of 2021, around a year after China imposed trade tariffs on Australian bottled wine of up to 218%.

These punitive tariffs were imposed in late 2020 following accusations that Australia was dumping cheap wine in China – a practice known for its potential to increase market share in foreign markets and drive out competition.

Australian winemakers have aggressively denied the charge and lodged a complaint with the WTO. In the meantime, Wine Australia is focused on providing education and support for exporters looking to re-route to the UK.

Global exports for Australian Wine in the year to December 2021 fell by 30% in value to $2.03 billion and 17% in volume to 619 million litres. Exports to the UK also decreased by 1% in value to $453 million and 9% in volume to 243 million litres, although the UK regained its title as the top export market for Australian wine.

A number of factors contributed to this overall decline in exports. Though the biggest driver was China's imposition of import tariffs, Australia also suffered low inventory at the start of 2021 after three small vintages and delays in getting the large 2021 vintage onto ships due to the ongoing global freight crisis. The pandemic is still disrupting trade in some markets, Wine Australia said.

Thursday's tasting was a little quieter than usual, thanks to the lack of Aussies – a clash harvest meant there were virtually no winemakers at the event. Nevertheless, a number of new wines showed the breadth and variety of what Down Under has to offer, from the latest vintages from Penfolds, Henschke, Vasse Felix and Clonakilla to old vine wines from Torbreck, Tahbilk and Thistledown. A number of sparkling wines from Barossa, Clare Valley, Coonawarra, Margaret River, Tasmania and Yarra Valley were also on show. More winemakers are due to visit the UK this year with the return of an Australian presence to the London Wine Fair, via Wines Unearthed.

“It will take time to offset the loss in trade to mainland China,” Wine Australia told Harpers. “This is not something that will happen overnight, or within a year. However, export growth to many destinations contains early signs that hard work in expanding and diversifying markets is paying off.”