News and Views

Australian wine tastings wow in Japan and South Korea

Growing interest in Australian wine has been reflected in the largest ever attendances at the annual Australian Wine Grand Tastings (AGT) held in Tokyo and Seoul, in collaboration with the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade).

One of the longest-standing Wine Australia events held globally, the AGT Tokyo, along with the evening consumer event received over 850 guests. Attendance at the trade tasting attendance was up by close to 30 per cent.

Speaking about the Tokyo event, Japan Times columnist, Melinda Joe, said, ‘The tasting was a fantastic invitation to the world of contemporary Australian wine. In terms of quality and diversity of styles, it seems that there has never been a better time. There were a lot of wines with freshness, poise, and complexity. It was great to see unusual bottles like Smallfry’s orange wine next to elegant Pinot Noir from Bass Phillips.’

Wine Australia Head of Market, Asia Pacific Hiro Tejima said the bigger and better AGT Tokyo in 2017 truly reflected that a new era of Australian wine had come in Japan.

‘The time was clearly ripe for a number of new features, such as the Sommeliers of the World Inspired Tasting, the virtual reality booth, an Australian barista bar, live barrel carving plus the two thought-provoking master classes by Kenichi Ohashi MW, Mike Bennie and the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) – all of which took advantage of the new venue at the Grand Hyatt Tokyo.

‘It was also a pleasure to see so many people discover more Australian wine including the 14 new-to-market wineries, who not only showcased at the tasting but also gained a much deeper insight into the Japanese wine market through the market familiarisation briefing and tour organised by Austrade.

‘Even better, we gained exposure for the event and the topic of Australian wine during prime-time news on the TX network, which covers Japan’s key cities through its affiliate stations’, Mr Tejima said.

Yookwang Song, Head Sommelier at Fratelli Paradiso Tokyo (a cousin to the top Sydney Italian eatery) said he’d attended the tasting for several years but 2017’s event had evolved dramatically – fittingly given the changes that are happening in Australian wine and the changes happening in the Japanese market for Australian wine.

‘The two master classes were exactly the topics that needed to be presented here, and the speakers were fantastic. It was also great to have a large number of visiting producers, as well as the many fresh features such as the Inspired Tasting that showcased the wines selected by the leading sommeliers of the world. The day-long event was genuinely exciting; I left feeling supercharged and expecting more in the next AGT’, Mr Song said. In Seoul, the AGT event introduced the trade to some of Australia’s best known varieties as well as emerging varieties and styles.

South Korea is the fourth biggest still wine market in Asia with 3.4 million cases sold in 2016. Australian wine currently ranks sixth in sales behind Chile, Spain, France, the USA and Italy. However Australian wine sales have been growing strongly since the 2014 Korea-Australia Free Trade Agreement removed a 15 per cent tariff on Australian wines, levelling the playing field. Australian sales have been outpacing competitor nations since the agreement was introduced.

In its fourth year, the tasting at the JW Marriott Dongdaemun Square Seoul included two master classes during the day by wine writer Mike Bennie, and the Australian Wine Research Institute. The event was attended by over 400 members the local wine trade and media, the largest ever at an Australian wine tasting in South Korea.

Austrade Korea’s Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner, Amanda Hodges, said ‘The tasting event is to raise the awareness of regional and iconic Australian wine in Korea. As a result of 2016’s event, there will be three new Australian wine brands available to Korean consumers’.

Event exhibitors were delighted with the strong turnouts. Tyrell’s Wines International Manager, Grant Bellvé said 2017’s Australian Wine Grand Tasting in Tokyo was probably one of the best tastings where he had the pleasure to exhibit.

‘It was busy for the full eight hours with educated questions throughout the day and the evening. I used 25 bottles which indicates the amount of interest and numbers that came through. I will definitely be back in 2018’, Mr Bellvé said.

Nocton Vineyard General Manager, Anthony Woollams, was impressed with engagement and knowledge of the Korean participants.

‘This was my first visit to South Korea and my first opportunity to assess the market and the trade’s reaction to Nocton Vineyard’, he said.

‘In many markets there are preconceptions of Australian wine styles which can lead to some confusion when confronted with Tasmania’s vastly different offering. Therefore, I was surprised and completely delighted to see an instant and almost universal understanding of our styles, including the other Tasmanian brands present. I imagine this has been helped by the work of other premium Tasmanian producers in South Korea, for example, cherries, beef and salmon, to educate people on Tasmania’s cool climate.’

Source: Wine Australia