It’s easy to underestimate the tastes of consumers in a country most famous for McDonalds and Coca Cola. But there’s much more to the US market than fast foods and fizzy drinks says Manor Estate vintner Peter Cap. Trying to fob the US off with cheap and cheerful wines will only hurt Australia’s reputation as a country that’s capable of making truly excellent wine.
“US consumers are far more sophisticated than most Australians realise,” says Peter. “If you want to market wine in the USA, ditch your stereotypes, stop being patronising, and give them the best you have to offer – regardless of the product type.”
Rich but Not Dumb
In early export adventures, many Australian wineries were eager to tap into a wealthy market, but, says Peter, many of them underestimated savvy US consumers.
“There’s already a perception in the USA that Aussies are going to try and fob them off with cheap and cheerful wines. They don’t want that. Send inferior wines to the US and you will lose out. This is a market that appreciates quality, and if you offer them a half-hearted excuse for a wine, you’re not only going to lose money, you’re also going to make it more difficult for Australian wineries that offer a really good product.”
“To put this even more bluntly,” says Peter, “The USA is rich, but not dumb. You don’t get rich without having smarts, and the USA has them.”
Don’t Think Economy Class
Exporting wine and being ready to comply with the plethora of regulatory requirements for packaging and selling wine in the USA is not a low-cost exercise, warns Peter. “People often think that the US is the US, but then they encounter the fact that each state has its own rules and regulations regarding wine packaging and wine sales. The USA has 50 states, and in reality, that’s like getting ready to sell to 50 different countries.”
“With the cost markup this entails, some Australian wineries seem to have decided that sending cheap wine – and marketing massive volumes of it – would make up for the fact that ‘cheap’ Australian wine is no longer cheap when it arrives in the USA. They were mistaken. If you fly to the US and want to travel economy class, that’s your business. But if you want to take your business to the US, economy class products aren’t going to make the cut,” says Peter.
Tired and Tested: Because What They Want is Something Special
Peter believes that Manor Estate has proved the point. What Americans want from imported wines is something out of the ordinary. “They love Manor Estate’s boutique wines. They love that we naturally age each vintage in our cellars. They especially like the fact that this is no mass-produced product that’s to be found at every street corner liquor store. Beyond that, they love the fact that Manor Estate offers the US its finest wines. It’s not cheap wine, but it is great wine. They’re willing to pay for that.”
For Manor Estate, the perception that Australia doesn’t have prestige as a winemaking country was among the barriers that Peter encountered. “It made it harder for us to break into the market. People were saying ‘We have French wine. We have Italian wine. We have our own wine. We’ve tried Australian wine and we weren’t impressed. It took a lot of effort just to get them to do a taste test that would debunk the notion that Aussie wines can’t be world-class. They want something special. We surprised and delighted them with truly superior wines. If you can’t deliver on that, don’t even try.”
Manor estate offers wine events, a romantic wedding venue and luxury accommodation in McLaren Vale. For more information, or join their wine club, visit the Manor Estate Wines website or call their team of experts on (08) 8383 7300.