Vege-fight: Wine Australia defends China strategy against criticism

The Shout re Wine Australia and China strategy


By Jim Boyce

Some folks from Down Under are riled up about Wine Australia, according to a series of stories on trade site The Shout. It started with this piece — “Aussies win at ProWine China, as Wine Australia goes missing” — by James Wells in Shanghai (highlights are mine):

“Over 25 Australian wineries have walked away from three days at the inaugural ProWine China with a strong list of business leads, but sadly a lack of support from Wine Australia disappointed many exhibitors.

“One of the biggest critics of Wine Australia’s no-show was Shanghai-based consultant Mat Ryan who helped coordinate a number of smaller Australian companies to attend the exhibition this year to help them find distributors in China.

“Ryan has worked and lived in China for 10 years, and said the lack of support from Wine Australia, other than a brief visit from a local representative was extremely disappointing.

“Ryan told TheShout that numerous requests to the Wine Australia office in China for assistance with minor tasks such as the translation of tasting notes consistently fell on deaf ears.”

While Wells claimed “many” were disappointed, he only cited Ryan, although he did underscore the apparent value of ProWine China via comments from Elderton Wines co-managing director Cameron Ashmead and Woodstock Wines managing director Scott Collett.

Then came a second story, “Wine Australia responds to ‘lack of support’ criticism“, in regard to a statement by the organization’s manager of communications and public relations Louisa Aherne:

“Our China team, which is made up of three hard working professionals, works to educate and engage the wine trade, media and consumers in China through trade shows, educational initiatives including A+ Australian Wine Schools and the A+ Australian Wine Specialist Programs, media, social media, retail promotions, tasting roadshows and masterclasses. Given the sheer size of the market, we focus our efforts and resources on initiatives that deliver the most return on investment for our levy payers and user-pays partners,” Aherne said.

“There are more than 10 large scale wine shows held in various cities around mainland China and in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, with the resources we have, we are unable to commit to all of them. Instead, Wine Australia participates in well-established events with a proven track record based on feedback from exhibitors, the Chinese wine trade and Australian wineries,” she said.

“In the last two years, we have focused our efforts and resources on the following trade shows in China and Hong Kong: Vinexpo Asia Pacific 2012, Hong Kong Nov 2012, Food & Hospitality China (FHC), Shanghai 13-15 Nov 2012, China National Food, Wine & Spirits Fair, Chengdu (Chengdu Fair) 28-31 March 2013, Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Fair, Hong Kong 7-9 Nov 2013, China National Food, Wine & Spirits Fair, Chengdu (Chengdu Fair) – TBC based on the final subscription 28-31 March 2014, SIAL 2014, Shanghai 13-15 May 2014 and Vinexpo Asia Pacific 2014, Hong Kong 27-29 May 2014.”

Aherne said Wine Australia’s strategy, focus and activities in China are guided by Australian wineries as well as the China Australian Wine Importers Network (CAWIN), which consists of wine importers of all size.

That story also covered Aherne’s comments on the Savour Australia 2013 event held in Adelaide with hundreds of trade people from around the world, including from China, and some of the strategies behind deciding on trade event support in China.

It appears Wine Australia was not finished. As The Shout announced in this third story — Wine Australia demonstrates China focus —  the organization soon put out two press releases.

One concerned Wine Australia’s award for ‘Best Wine Culture Promotion Organisation’ from the magazine Wine in China.

“This award is also acknowledgement of the efforts and dedication of our small team in China across a very large market. It’s an honour to be recognised by such a prestigious publication and panel of judges in what is a very competitive market,” said Wine Australia regional manager for China, Willa Yang.

The other concerned the upcoming launch of a new level of the A+ Australian Wine School

“The full-day intermediate course builds on the first level course introduced in 2011 and is conducted by 14 certified A+ Australian Wine educators…. So far over 4300 people have participated in the A+ Australian Wine School in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou,  Shenyang, Dalian, Yantai, Qingdao, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Wuhan, Chengdu, Chongqing, Xiamen, Kunming and Sanya,” writes The Shout.

Then, faster than you could sink a few tinnies, Wells was back with, “Further criticism levelled at Wine Australia“:

A Perth-based winery is the latest company to react to the lack of perceived support from Wine Australia at a recent trade fair in China, which is Australia’s fourth largest wine export market.

Sarah LeCoultre, marketing manager from Neilson Estate Wines contacted TheShout to relay her experience at the recent ProWine China exhibition in Shanghai.

“We met the head of their local team, Willa, at ProWine. She was very nice, tasted our wines and told us that she was about educating people on Australian wines and as such, was unable to help us or provide services to us in any way. I’m wondering how she can effectively educate if she is not willing to work with and actively assist a range of Australian wineries in China?” LeCoultre told TheShout.

“Regarding the response by Louisa [Aherne] that Wine Australia does not do trade shows that are not tried and tested – although this is the first ProWine in China, surely the ProWein brand is tried and tested? Given that equivalent trade shows in China are popular in an evidently emerging market, supporting this event seems more than reasonable.”

Ryan returned with broader criticism — — “[Wine Australia] need to completely take Hong Kong off their radar as far as entering the China market is concerned” — and an anonymous source described only as an “Australian visitor” finished things off by saying, “We have now gained new business in Australia from Chinese clients that we had never met but appreciate the time that I took to go and understand and study the market and listened and agreed to my observations. Unfortunately Wine Australia have no idea about the personal mechanism that works in the wine industry globally or the achievable outcomes can be achieved.”

Given a single complaint about a single trade show resulted in two stories about Wine Australia and its initiatives, this latest piece ought to keep The Shout busy through Chinese New Year. We may soon need a James Wells Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Fund.

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