Video: Australian winemakers toast to wine boom at home

Amid lower China sales, and COVID-19 restaurant shutdowns, Australia’s winemakers are turning to a traditional revenue source: the cellar door.

Editor’s note:
The following is a transcript of the accompanying video. ©2020 Thomson Reuters.

Australia’s wine country has a new strategy for the triple threat of restaurant lockdowns, almost no foreign tourists, and plummeting sales overseas. Vineyards are turning to their fellow Australians. And with overseas holidays off the table due to COVID-19, winemakers in the Hunter Valley like Bruce Tyrell say Aussies are heading in for tastings like never before. Though social distancing has meant a change for Tyrell’s cellar door, that is the area where you can sample wine. It’s served up as a set rather than ad hoc at the bar. [Tyrell said]: “COVID has changed cellar door in Australia, that experience forever, and I think very much for the better. As far as our average sale is concerned, that’s doubled. So financially, yeah, it’s been great.”

The global health crisis came as profits slump in the United States and as Aussie wine exports to China take a dive. That’s especially bad news for winemakers. China buys 40% of the bottles Australia sells overseas. Politically, ties with Beijing have hit a rough patch, and China is investigating whether Australian wine exporters were shipping product at a loss to capture more of the market, otherwise known as “dumping”.

Winemaker Savannah Peterson says claims of dumping are false and that for her the opposite was true. [She said]: “So all of our wine, I’ve never sold out of my wine, so I don’t even have the wine to dump. I wish that I did, but unfortunately I don’t. Once things open up and they do get back to usual, back to normal, sorry, once people from this area and Sydney and New South Wales start travelling in other areas and maybe we don’t see as many of those domestic tourists that we have been and we do start getting more Chinese clients, we can’t wait to send more wine back over there. But for us it has always been about sending the premium wine over there, boutique small amounts, not a dumping ground at all.”

While it may be tough to make back for the losses from weeks of COVID-19 shutdowns, data shows Australian thirst for wine has also seen a sharp jump, up 7% for the year to August.