The Land Down Under, Oz, Australia … however you refer to it, this is a continent/country with an incredibly varied winemaking history and culture, but one that too often gets pigeon-holed as solely producing big, high-alcohol wines.

Mark Davidson, Head of Education Development – Americas for Wine Australia

We sat down with Mark Davidson, Head of Education Development – Americas for Wine Australia (and who also happens to be a Grape Experience educator) to chat about what’s happening in Australia’s wine scene right now and how the WSET helps change consumer understanding of the wines.

How have perceptions of Australian wine changed in the USA over the last ten years?

There’s been a big shift over that last 10 years, and more particularly in the last 2-3 years. Before, the perception was quite negative and one dimensional across all levels of the supply chain. Now we are seeing that there’s a much better understanding of the diversity of wine styles and this has resulted in a renewed interest. On-trade are keen to bring on more wines and have been more receptive and actively seeking out Australian wines and distributors. We also have more importers looking at diversifying their books and bringing in different styles and varieties.

How have you been educating consumers/trade during Covid times?

We have been partnering with wine schools and other educational bodies to host webinars, we’ve ramped up our distributor training sessions, and we’re working on various media campaigns.

Our online learning platform has also been a real hit: Australian Wine Discovered (www.australianwinediscovered.com). This is a free site with a plethora of downloadable, editable resources that has been a game changer in terms of directing people to access a curated, reliable source of information.

We are also about to launch a campaign called “Far From Ordinary.” More on this in the next few weeks.

What undiscovered Australian wines (not necessarily brands, but regions and styles) should Americans know about that they don’t? What are the Australian wine regions on the rise that we should watch?

So many! I think there is generally a better understanding of the classic varieties and styles. There are many exciting and contemporary regional stories right now, but I think that what is going on with southern Mediterranean varieties in McLaren Vale and Riverland is very cool: Fiano, Vermentino, Nero d’Avola, and Montepulciano are all really showing themselves to be ideally suited to the environment, and the best examples are showing a lovely freshness and vitality.

How do WSET courses help promote Australian wine?

From the start, WSET has always provided a solid foundation in Australian wine. Getting those basics sorted early in your wine education helps avoid stereotypes that can develop – and that’s true of all countries and regions.

WSET students have to learn about Sparkling Shiraz: tell us why. 

Because it is unique and lip-smackingly delicious! It is a historic style and while it can take people off guard initially, Sparkling Shiraz is incredible food friendly. Brilliant with Peking Duck, awesome on the Thanksgiving or Christmas table and remarkably good with Eggs Benedict. (That’s a personal story for another time….)

If you had to pick one region in Australia to take to a desert island, which one?

Yikes! That’s tough. Tasmania. That way I could drink world class bubbles, Pinot, and Chardonnay all day long. And in the unlikely event that those got boring, there’s delicious Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, and Gamay.

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