Shiraz or Chardonnay: which is your fine wine pick in 2021?

In South Australia, red wine drinkers will probably pick a Shiraz from the Barossa Valley as they associate that region with quality Shiraz. Australian wines in general already enjoy an enviable reputation, especially overseas, but the industry is still keen to improve how it markets these premium wines to consumers, especially using regionality and the ‘terroir effect’, which is a well-established and accepted tool in Europe.

wine on barrel

Assoc Prof 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. Results could potentially shape and focus wine marketing efforts in the future.

Focussing 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 means it might be difficult to build a quality reputation based solely on GI allocation, especially for overseas consumers.

But that could actually 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 Assoc Prof 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 Assoc Prof 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. Assoc Prof Goodman explains, ‘this study has allowed us to understand the nuance of technical analysis and 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 Assoc Prof Goodman.

The team’s research is already informing the industry, with recent articles in Grapegrower and Winemaker. Next, Assoc Prof 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.

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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