It’s been over 15 years since Australian wines and high-end, points-driven bottling began making headlines and dominating wine lists and shelves. For many buyers today, that story might as well be ancient history. “Australia has quite a story to tell,” says Tonya Pitts, Sommelier and Director of Wines of San Francisco A market restaurant, “but that’s not the story so many of us grew up in.” For buyers looking to explore, “there is value, uniqueness, and something for all customers and all consumers,” she adds.
If it looks like there’s a more diverse crop of Australian wines on the wine streets, it’s not your imagination. “Australian wineries are entering the US market in numbers not seen in more than a decade, and three out of four new entrants are pricing their wines [at] US$15 and up,” says Aaron Ridgway, Wine AustraliaRegional General Manager for the Americas. “That level of confidence and excitement is helevating the category to a place where American shoppers can create retail packages and wine lists that truly reflect the compelling quality, diversity and depth of the Australian offering.
The wines offer this Jane Lopes, the Nashville-based cof the founder of Caption imports, likes to call it the best of both worlds. “Australia is like uncharted territory – it’s something new and different that can excite people who have been through a lot in the world. But also, it’s not all the crazy flavors and names of grapes that people have never heard of, so it can be quite accessible. It can be really beneficial to work that double duty on the shelves and on the wine lists.”
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“You can make more money on these wines, especially small producers,” recommends Gordon Little, the New York co-founder of Small peacock imports. “You may be different from the store or restaurant down the street, offer a great selection and make a good margin.
How best to highlight these wines? “Don’t have an Australian section,” recommends Little, “unless you really have an Australian section. It may seem incongruous with the idea of selling more Australian wine, but lopes accepted. “People aren’t necessarily looking for Australian wine. But if they’re looking for cabernet and see a cool label, nice presentation, at the price they wanted — and it happens to be from Australia — they’ll buy it,” she says. And they will probably be impressed.
What niche categories, underrated opportunities and trending Aussie styles should shoppers keep in mind? SevenFifty Daily spoke to importers, retailers and sommeliers across the country to get their thoughts on Australian wines currently selling.
1. Go for the crisp whites of Australia
If you’re looking to beef up a selection of crisp white wines, “always choose Australia and definitely include one of the driest Rieslings on the planet,” says Melissa McAvoy, owner of swirling wine Bar in Orlando. While there are certainly off-dry and sweet examples of Australian Riesling, the dry style is the dominant style.
This is a situation where emphasizing style rather than varietal works extremely well. “We don’t catch the person who says, ‘You know, what? I really want an Aussie Riesling! It’s definitely more about style and price,” says Kathy Marlin, senior vice president of the Pioneer Division at Wine imports. Pouring a little taste or strategically positioning bottles in a cooler with a “yes, it’s really dry” bottle label is an easy way to assure customers they are getting one of the crispiest, most crisp whites. dried from the market.
Another option that never stays on the shelf for long at Copake Wine Works, my shop in the Hudson Valley, is Hunter Valley Semillon. A classic, racy and very acidic white when young, this is a surefire hit for anyone looking to move away from Sauvignon Blanc without leaving the style altogether. Discerning fans of the region also know that there is a bonus factor. “For those willing to wait seven years or more, they are rewarded with unique Hunter-aged-Semillon characteristics,” says Henry Hudson, the founder of Hudson Wine Brokers.
2. Look for the new wave of natural wines
Natural wines and trendy styles like light, chilling reds and skin contact whites tend to transcend regional boundaries and sell out no matter where they come from. “While some consumers may not be familiar with Australia’s natural wines, many of them also don’t have preconceived ideas about Australian wines,” says Hudson. “They are attracted by the labels, the prices and the philosophy behind winemaking. »
The natural wine scene in Australia is vibrant and has grown far beyond its original Adelaide Hills base. “They won’t be cheap,” says Little, “but the best examples anywhere won’t be cheap.” When the usual sources of natural wines run dry or you want to branch out beyond what everyone else is offering, look to Australian options. They may need some legwork to find them, but importers such as Vine Street Imports, Selections from Tess Bryantand Terrell Wines are constantly expanding their distribution partnerships, so it’s worth going straight to the source to see if they’re looking to break into the local market.
3. Explore the Italian side of Australia
Italian varieties, both red and white, are trending for shoppers looking for flavors that lean towards the salty side. Grapes such as Dolcetto, Fiano and Nero d’Avola are increasingly popular among winemakers now that the vines have worked their way through quarantine programs at nurseries such as Chalmers and Yalumba. Particularly well-suited to the warmer regions of Australia, they feed directly into conversations about sustainable agriculture and winemaking.
This is especially true in the Riverland, where a group of brands such as Ricca Terra, Unico Zelo, Offender, and Humble Roots all produce affordable, compelling wines in an area primarily known for bulk wine production. The bounty ? “Lower inputs [are] necessary – in the vineyard and in the cellar”, explains David Forziati, owner of Forziati wine imports At New York. “The grapes just want to grow.” Although vine vigor must be managed, “it’s a much better problem to have than worrying about how to afford the huge amounts of water needed to grow other varieties,” he adds. he.
4. Discover Grenache, a warm climatic alternative to Pinot Noir
While it represents just over one percent of total plantings, Grenache has an outsized reputation. “It deserves to be a must-have,” says Lopez. A longtime component of Rhône-inspired Grenache-Shiraz-Mourvèdre (GSM) blends, it’s the lightest, freshest and most fragrant style that has become a favorite among new wave wine lovers.
It is this style that earned the grape its reputation as a “hot climate pinot noir” due to its aromatic complexity and silky texture, but with more consistency and less risk of tearing, given the difficulty that it may have in the vineyard. Lopes sees the grape as the perfect solution to an age-old four-peak challenge: “’We love Pinot Noir and we love Cabernet. What are we drinking?’ Grenache is in the middle and appeals to everyone,” she says.
5. Discover fortified and flavored wines
“It’s a shame more people don’t know about Australia’s incredible fortifications. We’re selling Yalumba’s 30-year-old fawn, and anyone who has it is blown away,” says Kate Webber, Director of Wines and Co-Owner of Webber Restaurant Group in Groton, Massachusetts. Known as “stickies” in Australian wine slang, these legendary wines can add a little extra spice to an after-dinner shelf or menu. “In many ways they seem more dynamic than, say, a 30-year-old fawn from Portugal. If we can get it, I still buy it and it still sells,” adds Webber, who notes that old vintages are plentiful.
If you’re really looking for the cutting edge of cool, keep an eye out for the new wave of vermouths that’s starting to hit American shores. “Customers are starting to talk about the geography of vermouth,” says Little. “Vermouths from Australia can add to that conversation.” Unique, local plants help complete the story and save premium pricing.
6. Don’t forget the bold, consumer-favorite reds
While lighter wine styles may be on trend, classic Australian styles are still strong sellers for the country. “You don’t order an 80-day $200 dry-aged steak from Snake River Farms and get a glass of Pinot Grigio,” Forziati says. For these occasions, full-bodied Shiraz-based wines from Australia, especially those from warmer regions such as the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale, remain a must.
Unlike some of the high-octane styles of years past, today’s wines tend to combine soft, ripe fruit with finesse and balance. At Copake Wine Works, we position them as an easy-to-sell alternative to the red blends that so many customers love. “These wines are perfect for that, at any price,” says Forziati. “I can be a little defensive about it. It’s Shiraz, and it’s awesome.
Christy Frank is a partner of Copake Wine Works, a boutique in New York’s Hudson Valley. She is an Advanced Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers and holds the WSET Diploma in Wine.