I enjoy looking through wine shops abroad. Seeing what wines are available, how the prices compare, which wines benefit from a global supply chain, and which Australian wines have found their way onto foreign shelves is an activity in itself. Well, not for normal people, but for the wine obsessive, yes.
On this occasion, travelling in Canada, I found prices generally a bit cheaper than Australia particularly for higher quality wines (surprise …), and many familiar faces for the Australian consumer in the French and Italian wine offerings. It was the Australian wine offering at this particular Canadian retailer though that caught my eye, being quite extensive for the other side of the planet. In comparable visits to regional French supermarkets I’ve tended to find one or two Australian wines filed away with the sundry curios. Somewhere between retsina and Bulgaria; in attendance sure, but not noticed.
Closer analysis of this Canadian wine shelf however highlighted some perhaps uncomfortable truths. Many, probably most, of the Australian wines on offer were large volume blended brands from multiple vineyards in the $10 to $20 price bracket from multinational wine companies. Visible offerings included wines from Hardys (Accolade Wines), Wyndham Estate (Pernod Ricard), Yellow Tail (Casella), Jacobs Creek (Pernod Ricard), Lindemans (Treasury Wine Estates) and Wolf Blass (Treasury Wine Estates), among others. Sure, there are other wines there, and branded wines produced by multinationals certainly aren’t per se uninteresting (although I don’t enjoy Yellow Tail’s offerings). The uncomfortable truth though is perhaps that for all the talk of projecting Australia’s regions and diversity into export markets, the reality may be that the above shelves are still the Australian wine experience for many.