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SA wine ambassador club opens million dollar doors


A government program promoting export opportunities for SA winemakers has marked financial success in its first year by opening up new markets for local producers.

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The South Australian Wine Ambassadors Club (SAWAC) has generated $1.2 million in sales for local businesses in its first year as winemakers cracked key Asia-Pacific markets such as Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea.

Launched as part of the state government’s ‘Wine Export Recovery and Expansion Program’ to help grow the local industry’s global footprint following the loss of the Chinese market, SAWAC is a platform for makers to connect with global wine importers and retailers.

In the program’s first 12 months, 45 South Australian wines broke into new markets. SAWAC will now expand from 27 wine importers in five countries to 41 importers in seven countries in its second year.

Trade and Investment Minster Nick Champion said the financial achievement of the program – facilitated by the Department of Trade and Investment – was “another sign of global confidence in our world-class industry”.

“Buoyed by its success, we’re expanding the South Australian Wine Ambassadors Club to target two new and emerging markets,” he said.

Vietnam and India are the two new markets SAWAC is targeting in year two, joining chapters already set up in Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and New Zealand.

“With a combined population of around 1.5 billion, there is an opportunity to further tap into both of these markets as their middle classes continue to grow,” Champion said.

Wine consumption in India is set to reach 55.5 million litres by 2025 according to the government, which said demand was fuelled by a rising middle class.

The government also said Vietnam was emerging as a key export destination amid strong growth in wine sales, with approximately two thirds of Australian wine shipped to Vietnam coming from South Australia.

The nation is a target for McLaren Vale-based Dandelion Vineyards which cracked the Singapore market with the help of the SAWAC.

Speaking to InDaily, Dandelion Vineyards director and head winemaker Elena Brooks said it “just makes sense” for South Australian companies to be targeting Asia-Pacific importers.

“We eat their foods, we go to their countries for holidays, we love their cultures, we actually embrace them,” she said.

“And it’s a similar thing for them – they come to our country for holidays, they love us as well. We should be positioning ourselves as a major supplier for that region.”

Dandelion Vineyards head winemaker Elena Brooks. Photo: Liam Jenkins/InDaily.

Brooks said the program helped wine companies like Dandelion with the confidence to trust importers as SAWAC helps facilitate connections.

“The distributors and importers that they put forward are already vetted – they’re serious importers,” she said.

“There’s a trust layer; we trust DTI, they trust DTI, so instead of spending two years to try and sign up a distributor or an importer the process goes down to between six to 10 months or even shorter.”

Brooks said that Dandelion wasn’t exposed to the loss of the Chinese market but that if the nation were to resume importing, South Australian wine programs like SAWAC help diversify makers’ exports.

“Once burnt, twice shy – hopefully people will be a little bit more careful,” she said.

SAWAC patron Tony Love, who works to connect makers with importers and distributors, said the program was helping to enhance the image of South Australian wine in the minds of overseas buyers.

“What we’re doing is expanding their knowledge or the image of what South Australian wine is. In most cases, it’s pretty limited; big robust Shiraz,” Love said.

“We’re showing the diversity of what we do. They’re getting the message about the creativity and the dynamism of the industry in South Australia and they’re taking that back with them.”

Love said “progressive” markets like Japan and South Korea were particularly keen on the diversity of South Australian wine.

“Japan is big into pet nats (pétillant naturel), and Korea is as well – that new generation of wine,” he said.

“They’re always going to want something traditional, but they’re also looking for something a little bit more inventive, a little bit more futuristic.”

He added that SAWAC was “learning as we go along” about how to target particular markets.

“I think we need to show North Asia a bit more white wine than we have,” he said.

“We’re going to be doing some virtual master classes out of Adelaide into Korea and Japan in November and that’s going to be almost entirely white wine.”

Love agreed with Dandelion’s Brooks in terms of how makers can reapproach the Chinese market in the event it reopens, and said “we need to broaden our basket”.

“Markets come and go in cycles, but we realised now that there are other opportunities all around the world,” he said.

“This is our local region in the Asia Pacific and we can speak to them and be there quickly.”

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