China’s watershed moment

29 March, 2017

A project designed to take the Margaret River wine brand to the same recognition level of Bordeaux in China is well into fruition after launching the best of WA’s wine shops into the country’s high-end districts.

Capitalising on China’s new-found love of wine, the project is being driven by Perth-based Margaret River Wines in partnership with Watershed Premium Wines and 14 other Margaret River producers.

By the end of September 2015, Australian bottled wine exports to China increased by 47 per cent on the previous year, and while French wines still dominate the market, Australia takes a healthy 14 per cent.

But Watershed Director Geoff Barrett says he would like to see this percentage increase, with his winery becoming the largest WA exporter to China.

“There was no bigger Margaret River wine exporter to China than Watershed before this relationship. Now we are unquestionably the largest exporter in that market,” he says.

“Within the next 5 years, there will be 35 million new wine consumers in China. The big change that’s taking place in China has been driven by the millennials as an age group. The average debt of a millennial is 18.5 times that of their salary. That’s one of the things driving the Chinese economy; they’ve gone from a nation of frugal savers to a nation of frivolous spenders.”

Barrett’s role has been the facilitator of the Margaret River Wines project where wines from the region are consolidated and exported to China.

“It was I who rang each individual producer in Margaret River and spoke to them about the opportunity in China. With two exceptions, every other winery put their hand up and said they’d love to be part of it,” he says.

Barrett says the first Margaret River Wines store recently opened within a retail outlet in Beijing, home to more than 50 other wine stores.

The store is the first of 10 expected to be launched by the end of this year, with outlets scheduled to open in select Chinese cities over the next two months.

“Within three years, we are expecting to have 300 of these wine shops in China, all branded the same way,” Barrett says.

Barrett says the next three years will see 800 Chinese visit Margaret River for training at Watershed.

“This is the first time Chinese wine sales representatives have ever trained outside of the country. They will spend somewhere between five to six weeks in education and they will come back another three times over a two-year period for further education and training,” he says.