THE peak industry body Wine Australia is hosting a visit by 20 leading European sommeliers, wine educators and writers to highlight the regional diversity and quality of Australian wines as the high dollar and offerings from new world producers, as well as traditional nations such as France and Germany, undercut Australian markets.
The visit, organised in partnership with wine regions and wineries, will give participants first-hand experience of Australian wine through winery visits, dinners, masterclasses and themed tastings that cover broad-ranging topics and styles such as chardonnay, pinot noir, riesling, topaque, muscat, alternative varieties, organic and biodynamic wines.
Wine Australia's regional director, Europe, Yvonne May said the trip would let participants experience the quality and diversity of Australian wines and help build Australia's position within the wine trade.
''This will give these highly influential visitors opportunity to experience the regions, meet the people and hear the stories that make Australian wines stand out … to help grow a sustainable, profitable position among the UK, European and Irish trade,'' Ms May said.
Wine Australia's regional director for Australia and emerging markets, Aaron Brasher, said reaching out to sommeliers and wine educators was crucial and part of the industry's wider strategy to educate drinkers at restaurants and venues about Australian wines.
''A credible person in a wine store or a sommelier is incredibly impactful and measurable, they can sell wine,'' Mr Brasher said.
He said Wine Australia would focus on the country's more prestigious wines as it talks to sommeliers and wine educators, hoping the trickle-down affect would then help mid-priced and lower-priced wines.
''It's about creating the halo effect,'' Mr Brasher explained. ''You start at the top and you bring everything under that to create positive reinforcement, and its reinforcing the regionality, diversity and quality of Australia's wine regions.''
Remi Cousin, assistant head sommelier at Heston Blumenthal's three-Michelin-star British eatery The Fat Duck, is on the tour. He said Australia needed to produce a better classification system across brands and regions that gave drinkers a multilevel offering set at a wide range of prices.
''A prestige wine is not a wine you will sell the most of,'' he said. ''You also need middle-range prices wines like in Champagne where you have non-vintage, vintage and then the prestige.''
Of the 900 wines stocked by The Fat Duck, only 10 per cent were Australian.
While it would sell a bottle of Penfolds Grange once every six months, there was a need for premium wines priced at about £100 ($145) a bottle.