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SA winemaker opens door to Moroccan market

Wine

A celebrated South Australian winemaker is breaking into the largely untapped North African market, securing a licence to import alcohol into Morocco.

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Coonawarra winemaker Gavin Hogg and his business partners have established a warehouse in Morocco and are working with two local distributors before sending the first shipment in March.

Hogg said the Hoggies Estate Wines shipment would be a range of wines from his three brands – Kopparossa, Hoggies and Olivia.

He said he and his colleagues had invested a lot of time and effort to procure a licence to import alcohol into Morocco.

“The first lot will be a container, which is 1000 cases, and that will be mixed. It’ll be a bit of a scattergun approach to show everyone what’s there and then see how the market responds,” Hogg said.

“The current availability of wine is pretty limited – it’s French, French and French, so I just thought ‘this is another frontier’.”

Known as the Gateway to Africa, Morocco is part of a group of fast-growing nations described as “African Lions”.

The Australian Government announced in November it would establish an embassy in the Moroccan capital Rabat in late 2017 or early 2018 for the first time. Previously, the Australian Embassy in France was responsible for Morocco.

Morocco is an Islamic country of 35 million people and about 95 per cent of the population are Muslims.

“It’s probably the most liberal Islamic country in the world – there are bars and hotels, liquor stores, and there’s 10 million tourists that go into Morocco each year and 80 per cent of those drink,” said Hogg.

“There’s probably about 10 million people in Morocco who are drinking at any one time, so we tend to think if we can get 5 per cent of that market we’ll be going pretty well.

“We’ll establish our labels first and then there will be some people over there who say, ‘I know of some other Australian wines – can you bring those in?’ and we can act as a conduit.”

SA winemaker Gavin Hogg.

SA winemaker Gavin Hogg.

Hogg was one of the most senior winemakers at Mildara-Blass in the 1980s and ’90s. His wines won dozens of Australian and international awards, including the coveted Jimmy Watson Trophy in 1989.

He planted his own vineyard in the Coonawarra region with his wife Julie in 1992.

Hogg released his first wines in 2000 and has gradually grown his range to about 20,000 cases a year – about half of which he exports to China and Japan.

“It’s just been puddling along until the last couple of years and now it’s really gaining traction,” he said.

“We are very wary of beating our drums because there’s been many times in this business when people’s expectations become distorted so you’ve got to keep your feet on the ground but you’ve also got to be alert to opportunities.

“The global market is so dynamic now it’s amazing. We deeply appreciate what Austrade have done for our collective businesses over the past decade and their offers of continued assistance while we establish our fledgling business.”

Australian wine is currently exported to only two of Africa’s 54 nations – South Africa and Nigeria.

According to the Organisation of Vine and Wine, Australia was the world’s fifth-largest wine-producing nation in 2016, behind Italy, France, Spain and the United States.

South Australia is consistently responsible for about 50 per cent of Australia’s annual production.

Hogg said he was approached about a year ago by two people – now his business partners – with strong contacts in Morocco.

“They’d tasted our wines somewhere and they said, ‘That’s what Moroccans like’, so we had a series of meetings and sent a lot of samples over,” he said.

“We decided to invest a lot of money into pursuing a licence, which we got in November.

“We’ll eventually take in all Australian products – ciders, beers, spirits and all things alcohol. It’s a fresh market and I’m absolutely positive it’s going to boom for us.

“Not only is there Morocco but there’s also along the whole north-western side of Africa.”

Hogg and his partners have also been granted licences to import meat, honey and butter into Morocco.

The first shipment of a butter substitute product is due to leave Australia next month.

This article was first published on The Lead.

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