6 Australian Wine Styles That Are Driving Sales
Article written by Christie Frank - SevenFiftyDaily

It’s been over 15 years since Australian critter wines and high-end, points-driven bottlings first began making headlines and dominating wine lists and shelves. For many of today’s buyers, that story might as well be ancient history. “Australia has quite the story to tell,” explains Tonya Pitts, the sommelier and wine director for San Francisco’s One Market Restaurant, “but it’s not the story so many of us grew up on.” For buyers looking to explore, “there is value, uniqueness, and something for everyone’s customers and all consumers,” she adds.

If it seems like there’s a more diverse crop of Australian wines hitting the wine streets, it’s not your imagination. “Australian wineries are coming into the U.S. market in numbers not seen in over a decade, and three out of four new entrants are pricing their wines [at] US$15 and above,” explains Aaron RidgwayWine Australia’s regional general manager for the Americas. “That level of confidence and excitement is helping lift the category to a place where U.S. buyers can build retail sets and wine lists that truly reflect the fascinating quality, diversity, and depth of Australia’s offering.”

The wines offer what Jane Lopes, the Nashville-based cofounder of Legend Imports, likes to call the best of both worlds. “Australia is like uncharted territory—it’s something new and different that people who’ve experienced a lot of things in the world can get excited about. But also, it’s not all crazy flavors and grape names that people never heard of, so it can be quite approachable. It can be really beneficial to work that double duty on shelves and on wine lists.”

“You can make more money on these wines, especially the smaller producers,” recommends Gordon Little, the New York-based cofounder of Little Peacock Imports. “You can be different from the store or restaurant down the street, offer a great selection—and make a good margin.” 

How to best showcase these wines? “Don’t have an Australian section,” recommends Little, “unless you really have an Australian section.” This may seem incongruous to the idea of selling more Australian wine, but Lopes agrees. “People aren’t necessarily looking for Australian wine. But if they’re looking for Cabernet and see a cool label, a nice presentation, at the price point they wanted—and it happens to be from Australia—they’ll buy it,” she says. And they’ll likely be impressed.

Which niche categories, underappreciated opportunities, and on-trend styles from Australia should buyers be keeping top of mind? SevenFifty Daily talked to importers, retailers, and sommeliers across the country to get their thoughts on the Aussie wines that are selling now

Explore Australia’s Italian Side 

Italian varieties, both red and white, are on-trend for buyers looking for flavors that lean towards the savory side. Grapes such as Dolcetto, Fiano, and Nero d’Avola are increasingly popular among winemakers now that the vines have made their way through quarantine programs at vine nurseries such as Chalmers and Yalumba. Especially well-suited to Australia’s warmer regions, they feed right into conversations about sustainable farming and winemaking.  

This is especially true in the Riverland, where a cluster of brands such as Ricca TerraUnico ZeloDelinquente, and Humble Roots are all producing affordable, compelling wines in a region primarily known for bulk wine production. The bonus? “Lower inputs [are] required—in the vineyard and in the winery,” says David Forziati, the owner of Forziati Wine Imports in New York City. “The grapes just want to grow.” While vine vigor may need to be managed, “this is a much better problem to have than worrying about how to afford the massive quantities of water needed to grow other varieties,” he adds.

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