This advertising content was produced in collaboration with SevenFifty and our partner, Wine Australia.
While the global wine trade has been faced with unprecedented challenges in recent years, this disruption has also created a new wave of creative solutions as we devise new ways of networking, sharing information, and building connections. Securing its place at the vanguard of this innovation, Wine Australia—the government authority responsible for promoting Australian wine internationally—launched its groundbreaking CONNECT platform in April 2021.
Showcasing the people and places that make Australia’s wine scene immensely vibrant, this fully immersive virtual platform is now available at the touch of a screen to trade professionals across the globe. Boasting a comprehensive array of features—from business-to-business matching services to panel discussions, virtual tastings, an extensive library of education materials, and more—the platform has quickly emerged as an indispensable resource for anyone interested in engaging more deeply with Australian wine.
A Portal to Australia, at Your Fingertips
At a time when buyer trips, trade shows, and in-person tastings have ground to a halt, CONNECT offers an astonishingly diverse range of commercial and educational applications. According to Aaron Ridgway, Wine Australia’s regional general manager for the Americas, the guiding principle behind the initiative was to create a complex yet user-friendly resource that could meet the industry’s varied needs in one instantly accessible space.
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“Even before COVID, we had started to look into creating a digital business-to-business platform, but once the pandemic happened the need for something like CONNECT became all the more clear,” Ridgway explains. “From the beginning, our mission was to distill down the essentials of what businesses needed during the pandemic, whether you’re an importer in Sweden, an agent in Canada, or a buyer in California.”
After much research and development, the final product is a multi-faceted platform with four different sections—Expo, Discover, Explore, and Conversations—each geared toward a different sector of the market. The platform is equally valuable to Australian producers, given how many wineries now want to establish or increase their presence in the US market.
To that end, on the importer-distributor side, Expo functions like a virtual trade show, gathering together a list of producers that will expand to over 500 wineries by year’s end. With its powerful interactive search functionality that filters results based on criteria such as organic and biodynamic certification, market availability, region, and more, it empowers buyers and importers to connect directly with wineries across Australia, whether they’re already imported or still looking to enter the US market. Complete with extensive profiles for each winery and detailed lists of tech sheets and tasting notes for each item of inventory on display, the feature makes it easier than ever to navigate through the Australia’s varied offerings to discover new winemaking talent and access information for buying decisions; it even provides options for requesting price lists and FOB details, booking meetings, and more.
For anyone eager to further their understanding of Australian wine—whether sommeliers, journalists, retail category managers, or countless other professionals—Discover offers an encyclopedic library of educational materials on all 65 of the country’s regions, from established classics like the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale to up-and-comers such as the cool-climate Adelaide Hills and Canberra District.
These overviews cover all the essential information necessary to put each region into context, with detailed maps and a comprehensive accounting of the grape varieties, soil types, microclimates, and wine styles produced across the country. Helping to put this abundance of information into perspective, Discover also boasts a constantly changing roster of curated collections from some of the industry’s top experts, highlighting specific styles, regions, and even themes for further exploration.
In the new Explore section, users can follow in the footsteps of specially designed itineraries where notable wine influencers have explored. Use the interactive maps to travel through the regions and discover what’s offered. Trade members can also favorite businesses and create their own itineraries.
Industry Issues Beyond Australia
These functions alone would be enough to make CONNECT a leading model for the ways the industry is evolving. It is the Conversations section, however—a regularly updated, on-demand video library of live panel discussions, events, and tastings—that most powerfully displays the platform’s groundbreaking offers. Starring many of the wine world’s top thought leaders, the series tackles the biggest issues facing not just Australian wine, but the business as a whole.
A recent panel, “Imported Wines: The USA Landscape for 2021 to 2023,” for example, focused on Australia’s evolving place in the U.S. market landscape over the next two years. Moderated by John Moramarco with panelists Helen Mackey, senior VP of marketing for Darden Restaurants, Curtis Mann, MW, group vice president for Albertsons Companies, and Wine.com founder Mike Osborn, the discussion touched upon a wide variety of topics, including shifting demographics of U.S. wine consumers, changing consumption habits, and the impact of new technology on shopping habits.
Among other takeaways, the panelists agreed that millennials are largely driving the future of the market for imported wines. Noting that between 30 and 40 percent of Darden’s wine lists in polished casual locations consist of imports, Mackey observed that much of this post-pandemic on-premise exploration can be ascribed to millennial consumers, who are returning to restaurants more quickly than their baby boomer and Gen X counterparts. Echoing this discovery angle, Mann also sees millennials spending more per bottle—a trend he attributes to a drive for authenticity among younger consumers. For this reason, he and Mackey agreed that, with their guarantee of quality, typicity, and terroir-expression, appellation-designated wines—such as Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc, for instance—represent a key area of opportunity for Australia, particularly as their domestic equivalents outprice themselves. This panel discussion is available to view on demand on CONNECT.
Though primarily focused on Australia, the relevance of these insights extends far beyond a single country’s offerings. Just ask Tammy Ackerman, vice president of retail and ecommerce for Treasury Wine Estates. “It’s definitely worth carving out an hour of time to watch the recent Imported Wine webinar from Wine Australia,” she says. “There are few trade webinars that can provide you with so much insight across three channels and directly from the decision makers.”
As consumer behavior and day-to-day realities change rapidly, this is exactly the kind of leadership and innovation that the wine world needs to continue building toward a brighter future—not just for Australia, but for the industry at large.