The best thing that has happened to the Barossa wine industry in the last couple of weeks is that the world is waking up.
That’s according to Mr Stuart Bourne, Barons of the Barossa Winemaker of the Year and Senior Winemaker at Soul Growers who said there is a silver lining starting to show post COVID-19.
He said rediscovering your own backyard is the first wave of the bounce back post pandemic and cited interstate and overseas travel to follow.
“This is where we as the Barossa, are an amazing community. We are ready to receive these visitors,” said Stuart.
“At the moment there is not many of them but when we shut down we were already making plans for when we got back on our feet of what we were going to do… the Barossa was proactive, not reactive.
“While things were quiet we were planning for the future success and communicating with our customers.”
It’s those Barossa stories that have helped the region to forge strong links with the markets and while overseas borders remain shut, Stuart cited Barossa trained ambassadors continue to do the work that the locals can’t.
Stuart turns to the Barossa Wine School organised by the Barossa Grape and Wine Association as one of the advantages to helping bring the export markets and visitation to the region back on track.
“We are now starting to see a really positive return on investment with the BGWA wine school in China and now is the time when that will really help pay us back,” said Stuart.
“We have all the fully trained Barossa Wine School ambassadors in the market of China who are out there telling the Barossa story because we can’t get there at the moment. They know us and know what it is to be Barossan and they are telling the story to the Chinese market.
“China as an individual market went quiet, like all markets did, but China is ordering and is recovering like the rest of the world and we also know they do things a little bit faster than other markets.”
Stuart said one of the biggest factors on why the Barossa will positively bounce back from COVID-19 is because of the connection with the wine and the customer.
“The work that has been done for decades means it is unique with the consumer and the Barossa as a relationship,” said Stuart.
“The Barossa is so connected to the people that drink the wine. That’s why the recovery process is so much easier for us because we have done so much over the years.”
With tourism re-open, Stuart said the hospitality industry is also “waking up” but the communication that has been happening in the background is what will put the Barossa at the forefront.
“Those in the industry at the little end of town all started talking to each other and have a cohesive community… we don’t see ourselves as competitors, we see ourselves as mates and help each other,” said Stuart.
“When COVID first started we all kept talking to each other. And that relationship that we forged with our customers is as tight as the relationship we forged with each other as community members.”
Complacency isn’t part of Stuart’s way either. He said it’s important to continue to look for new relationships as there is always a need to keep telling the story.
And when it comes to how locals can support locals, now more than ever, Stuart has two points of advice.
“If you are planning a holiday, can you spend the money in your state before anywhere else? The state needs you,” said Stuart.
“And if you see visitors in our region, even if it only be a smile, please make them feel welcome. It’s these people that will help bring our region back to greatness.”
Wine school “crucial” to keeping Barossa top of mind
Barossa Wine School is a crucial mechanism to continue to ensure that Barossa and the region’s wines are top of mind in terms of awareness so this supports and drives buying behaviour according to Barossa Grape and Wine Association’s CEO, Mr James March.
He said with several ambassadors in place in key markets, including China, they are able to deliver the Barossa message when the Barossa Grape and Wine Association can’t travel and then providing continued engagement with audiences.
“We are working with trade organisations such as Austrade to reach out to key markets through Virtual Tastings, taking advantage of the winemakers being “at home” here at the moment,” said Mr March.
“Each of Barossa’s regional wine brands will be working closely with their distributors and partners in the market to ensure they have the best support to continue to promote Barossa as a preferred region of choice.”
Successful in obtaining a SAWIDS grant, Barossa Grape and Wine Association have been able to improve their digital capability establishing the Barossa Wine School onto an e-learning platform with an e-commerce element.
“The opportunity for the Barossa wine and tourism communities to embrace technology solutions to solve new and existing business challenges was our principal motivator to support the FOMENT project,” said Mr March.
“To accelerate our region as an early adopter and to build capacity is even more pertinent in today’s rapidly changing landscape of consumer behaviours and expectations.
“With Barossa’s innovative and entrepreneurial spirit rising to the opportunity, we hope this programme will be like our region, always fermenting with new ideas and attitudes.”