Creating demand for regional specialities: An exploration into Australian 'terroir'

A quality drop of Shiraz is synonymous with the Barossa Valley, South Australia, as is a Chardonnay from the Margaret River region in Western Australia. Unconscious biases aside, these regional specialities within Australia are highly regarded and enjoy an enviable reputation overseas. But can we leverage our regionality in international wine markets to charge a premium, by utilising the ‘terroir effect’, a well-established and accepted tool in Europe?

wine on barrel

Associate Professor Steve Goodman and colleagues from the Adelaide Business School, Waite Institute and the University of California, Davis, carried out research to establish whether there are easily identifiable and attributable sensory and chemical qualities that can link wine styles to our own Geographical Indicators (GI) in a similar way as terroir implications do with European regions. These results could potentially shape and focus wine marketing efforts in the future.

Focusing on Shiraz and Chardonnay in four regions (Margaret River, Yarra Valley, Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale), the team were able to establish a range of factors that associated particular wine styles with those regions. However, results also indicated that those chemical and sensory attributes were no doubt influenced by human-driven elements, such as production processes and storage and aging methods, rather than just the natural and environmental factors. This could lead to difficulties in building a quality reputation based solely on GI allocation, especially for overseas consumers.

But, this could be good news for growers and producers. ‘The Old World uses AOC [appellation d'origine contrôlée] to promote premium regions, but the technicalities of growing and making are highly controlled—from irrigation to how the wine is made,’ says Dr Goodman. Australian growers and makers are not bound by the same strict guidelines, meaning that the industry can move towards having distinct wines based on terroir but, as Dr Goodman puts it, ‘terroir that also includes the impact of people involved in the process.’ Marketing wines by region has already enjoyed some success. But if the industry can create even stronger connections between high-quality wine styles and the area they come from, then those winemakers can charge a premium for their product, benefitting the industry as a whole.

Up until now, promoting regions has largely been a marketing effort. One of the unique elements of this study is its cross-disciplinary nature, bringing together both marketing and technical science. Dr Goodman explains, ‘this study has allowed us to understand the nuance of technical analysis and the description of wine, and to uncover how that type of analysis can assist marketing efforts.’ Having established the sensory and chemical characteristics of Chardonnay and Shiraz across and within regions, ‘producers who have a technical understanding of what makes a Barossa or McLaren Vale Shiraz different from other regions, can tailor their efforts to suit—if they choose,’ says Dr Goodman.

The team’s research is already informing the industry, with recent articles in Grapegrower and Winemaker. Next, Dr Goodman be working with colleagues from The Waite Campus to tackle consumer acceptance of climate tolerant grape varieties which are not as familiar to them as those already on our shelves. With the wine industry showing no signs of slowing down, there is still boundless research to be done.

Dr Steve Goodman is an Associate Professor in Marketing at the Adelaide Business School. He is an active researcher in the area of wine marketing, specifically consumer choice and business decision making in the wine supply chain context. He has published wine marketing research in academic journals, presented papers at leading academic conferences and published extensively in editor reviewed industry journals. Dr Goodman currently teaches into a range of marketing courses at the Adelaide Business School including Marketing for Wine Business as part of the bespoke Wine Business suite

Marcell Kustos, Joanna M. Gambetta,1, David W. Jeffery, Hildegarde Heymann, Steven Goodman, Susan E.P. Bastian, 2019, 'A matter of place: Sensory and chemical characterisation of fine Australian Chardonnay and Shiraz wines of provenance', Food Research International. 

Tagged in Wine Business, Research, Featured, Marketing

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