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World's best sommeliers tune their senses in leading Australian wine regions

Research & Development

A DOZEN of the world’s top sommeliers are touring Australia’s premium wine regions this weekend to increase their local knowledge and discover new wines for their celebrated lists.

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The sommeliers attended The World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards in Melbourne on Wednesday before heading to the South Australian capital Adelaide yesterday.

The tour is part of a Wine Australia strategy to increase the demand and premium paid for Australian wines. In all, Wine Australia and Tourism Australia brought 50 of the world’s best sommeliers Down Under this month to coincide with the restaurant awards.

South Australia is consistently responsible for about 50 per cent of Australia’s annual production and up to 80 per cent of its premium wine.

The group visited Penfolds’ Magill Estate – the home of Grange – last night and is headed to McLaren Vale today and Adelaide Hills tomorrow.

The tour will visit the Barossa Valley – home of iconic Australian brands including Jacob’s Creek and Wolf Blass – on Sunday.

Highlights of the visit include a visit to d’Arenberg’s soon to open $14 million Cube in McLaren Vale, the artisan Basket Range Festival in the Adelaide Hills and a tour of one of Australia’s oldest wineries, Seppeltsfield, in the Barossa Valley

Guillermo Cruz Alcubierre, pictured, is Head Sommelier at Spain’s famous Mugaritz, rated No. 9 at the World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards this week.

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Alcubierre, who has several vintages of Penfolds Grange on the wine list at Mugaritz, said visiting the winery where Australia’s most famous premium wine originated would prove very helpful with diners in Spain.

“You don’t really understand the brand until you go to the winery and learn the history,” he said.

“I’m very curious about Australia because it’s a huge market with many different styles of wine.

“From my side I only have the iconic wines but part of the treat is just to come here and meet more producers.”

New Zealand’s first and only Master Sommelier Cameron Douglas is also on the trip.

He said the quality and variety of wines being made by small producers in Australia presented international opportunities that could be realised if wineries could forge relationships with leading sommeliers.

“I’m certainly exposed to some Australian wine in New Zealand but what I’ve learned very quickly is that we are missing out on some particularly good Australian wines because they simply are not available,” Douglas said.

“Come and see the gatekeepers first and we can in turn put some pressure on distributors to get some of these wines across.”

Edmundo Ferrera is a Mexican-born sommelier who has worked in leading restaurants in Canada, Germany and England.

He is now based in New Zealand where he is a buyer and manages seven wine lists.

Ferrera said the tour of some of Australia’s leading regions was “an eye-opener and a game changer”.

“From the moment we arrived the first thing I noticed was all of the different styles and that was quite inspiring,” he said.

“To sell the wines that you have loved for so many years and then come to their homeland it’s kind of like a religious moment.”

Wine Australia Chair Brian Walsh said the sommeliers would taste about 700 wines during their 10-day Australian trip.

However, he said other activities such as a game of beach cricket had been worked in to the itinerary to provide a quintessential Australian experience.

“We want to show them as much as we can about the diversity, quality and individuality of our wines, our people and our places so they could go home with a new level of awareness and confidence to start thinking about placing some of those wines on their lists,” Walsh said.

“For us it’s a long-term strategy.

“We just need to find a way to keep highlighting our very best wines in front of these people to change perception over time so they think of us as a great wine producing country not just a good value wine producing country.”

According to the Organisation of Vine and Wine, Australia was the world’s fifth largest wine-producing nation in 2016 behind Italy, France, Spain and the United States

In 2016, the global value of Australian wine exports grew by 7 per cent to A$2.22 billion. This value growth was driven by bottled exports, particularly those at higher price points.

Bottled exports grew by 10 per cent to A$1.8 billion. The average value of bottled exports hit a calendar year record, up by 5 per cent to A$5.48 per liter FOB.

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