Australia Fortifies Its Reputation


Severe floods and difficult weather conditions throughout Australia brought problems of disease, delayed vintage and inevitably crop losses to winegrowers in 2011, resulting in an overall decline in production and wine exports. Many winegrowers were concerned whether this would all adversely affect the country’s reputation. In spite of these hardships,Australian winehas actually been increasing in average value per bottle— a phenomenon that has not happened for last five years.


For decades, Australia has built and enjoyed a rising international stature for quality wines.  Through continued commercialisation, the country had undergone a boom in exports with the rise of sizeable wineries such as Yalumba, Wolf Blass and Penfolds. However, the concurrent proliferation of cheap mass-produced wines from Australia had begun to change global perception in recent years, tarnishing their hard earned reputation. As a result, there has been a concerted recent interest in showcasing the tradition, quality and regional diversity of Australian wines. In one such initiative, twelve family-owned wineries created a group calledAustralia’s First Families of Wineswhose purpose is to focus on elevating the international profile of Australia’s wines.


Like many Australian wineries,RockBareis both a family owned and commercially operated business. Now into its eleventh year, the winery was founded by Tim Burvill after post-merger shakeups led him to leave Penfolds. Burvill set out to develop a brand that had the both the strength and character of its name, which comes the local reserve near his home.


Asian Palate met with Sam Atkins, RockBare’s CEO, to discuss some of the challenges of building an international brand.  “We are definitely a market driven wine business, investing a lot of our personal time, money and resource in brand development and marketing, whilst ensuring we offer good value for money at every level of our wine industry model,” said Atkins.


When asked how Australia’s premium wines compare to other wine producing regions in the world, Atkins pointed out the difficulty in defining the actual term ‘premium wine.’ “It is better to use the phrase, ‘value for money,’” he said. “If you are buying wine at AU$10 or AU$1000 a bottle and the consumer has that experience [where] they believe they have received a product that is worth more than what they have paid for—if you can achieve this at every level, then you will have a lot of satisfied customers who will want to drink your wines on a regular and consistent basis.


Our efforts in the ‘winemaking and viticultural’ end of the business sometimes go unnoticed due to all the efforts and work we place on the brands,” said Atkins. “But our commitment to quality fruit and winemaking is second to none.


Australian wine legislation allows liberal and innovative use of technology to overcome challenges in viticulture and vinification. Currently reserving over 90% of their wines for domestic consumption, RockBare is looking to increase export volume in New Zealand, North America and the greater Asian region including Singapore, Japan, Vietnam; with particular focus on Hong Kong via their importerGlobal Wine Cellars, and China.


“We believe the market is maturing in regard to the consumption of wine,” said Atkins. “We really like the people, interest in our wines and genuine excitement that all these markets bring to our business.” And while Australia continues to make their wines more accessible, wine drinkers in Hong Kong will continue to enjoy a diversity of wines from all over the world.