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Australian wines wow Japan and South Korea

Growing interest in Australian wine has been reflected in the largest ever attendances at the annual Australian Wine Grand Tastings (AGT) held in Tokyo and Seoul last week, in collaboration with the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade).

One of the longest-standing Wine Australia events held globally, the AGT Tokyo, along with the evening consumer event received over 850 guests. Attendance at the trade tasting attendance was up by close to 30 per cent.

Speaking about the Tokyo event, Japan Times columnist, Melinda Joe, said, "The tasting was a fantastic invitation to the world of contemporary Australian wine. In terms of quality and diversity of styles, it seems that there has never been a better time. There were a lot of wines with freshness, poise, and complexity. It was great to see unusual bottles like Smallfry's orange wine next to elegant Pinot Noir from Bass Phillips."

Wine Australia Head of Market, Asia Pacific Hiro Tejima said the bigger and better AGT Tokyo this year truly reflected that a new era of Australian wine had come in Japan.

"The time was clearly ripe for a number of new features, such as the Sommeliers of the World Inspired Tasting, the virtual reality booth, an Australian barista bar, live barrel carving plus the two thought-provoking master classes by Kenichi Ohashi MW, Mike Bennie and the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) – all of which took advantage of the new venue at the Grand Hyatt Tokyo.

"It was also a pleasure to see so many people discover more Australian wine including the 14 new-to-market wineries, who not only showcased at the tasting but also gained a much deeper insight into the Japanese wine market through the market familiarisation briefing and tour organised by Austrade.

"Even better, we gained exposure for the event and the topic of Australian wine during prime-time news on the TX network, which covers Japan’s key cities through its affiliate stations", Mr Tejima said.

Yookwang Song, Head Sommelier at Fratelli Paradiso Tokyo (a cousin to the top Sydney Italian eatery) said he’d attended the tasting for several years but this year’s event had evolved dramatically – fittingly given the changes that are happening in Australian wine and the changes happening in the Japanese market for Australian wine.

"The two master classes were exactly the topics that needed to be presented here, and the speakers 
were fantastic. It was also great to have a large number of visiting producers, as well as the many fresh features such as the Inspired Tasting that showcased the wines selected by the leading sommeliers of the world. The day-long event was genuinely exciting; I left feeling supercharged and expecting more in the next AGT", Mr Song said.

In Seoul, the AGT event introduced the trade to some of Australia’s best known varieties as well as emerging varieties and styles.

South Korea is the fourth biggest still wine market in Asia with 3.4 million cases sold in 2016. Australian wine currently ranks sixth in sales behind Chile, Spain, France, the USA and Italy. However Australian wine sales have been growing strongly since the 2014 Korea-Australia Free Trade Agreement removed a 15 per cent tariff on Australian wines, levelling the playing field. Australian sales have been outpacing competitor nations since the agreement was introduced.

In its fourth year, the tasting at the JW Marriott Dongdaemun Square Seoul included two master classes during the day by wine writer Mike Bennie, and the Australian Wine Research Institute. The event was attended by over 400 members the local wine trade and media, the largest ever at an Australian wine tasting in South Korea.

"The tasting event is to raise the awareness of regional and iconic Australian wine in Korea. As a result of last year’s event, there will be three new Australian wine brands available to Korean consumers," said Austrade Korea’s Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner, Amanda Hodges. 

Event exhibitors were delighted with the strong turnouts. Tyrell’s Wines International Manager, Grant Bellvé said this year’s Australian Wine Grand Tasting in Tokyo was probably one of the best tastings where he had the pleasure to exhibit.

"It was busy for the full eight hours with educated questions throughout the day and the evening. I used 25 bottles which indicates the amount of interest and numbers that came through. I will definitely be back next year," Mr Bellvé said.

Nocton Vineyard General Manager, Anthony Woollams, was impressed with engagement and knowledge of the Korean participants.

"This was my first visit to South Korea and my first opportunity to assess the market and the trade’s reaction to Nocton Vineyard," he said.

"In many markets there are preconceptions of Australian wine styles which can lead to some confusion when confronted with Tasmania’s vastly different offering. Therefore, I was surprised and completely delighted to see an instant and almost universal understanding of our styles, including the other Tasmanian brands present. I imagine this has been helped by the work of other premium Tasmanian producers in South Korea, for example, cherries, beef and salmon, to educate people on Tasmania’s cool climate."

Tasting list Japan (Tokyo)

Accolade Wines

Wingara Wine Group


Tyrrell’s Wines

Helen & Joey Estate

Vasse Felix

Wirra Wirra

Jim Barry Wines

Cassegrain Wines

Rosemount Wines

Thorn Clarke Wines

Small Fry Wines Barossa


Wakefield Taylors Family Wines

Two Hands Wines

Cracker Jack

Lonsdale Ridge

Australian Vintage

Idyll Wine Co.

Cape Mentelle


Deakin Estate

Jacob’s Creek

Yalumba Family Vignerons

McWilliam’s Wines

Angove Family Wines

Mount Langi Ghiran

Yering Station

Leeuwin Estate


Tertini International


De Bartoli

Hill Smith Family Vineyards

John Duval

Audrey Wilkinson

Nocton Vineyard

Gapstead Wines

Stefani Estate Wines

Fowles Wines

Brown Brothers

Moorilla Estate

Xanadu (Rathbone Wine Group)

Schubert Estate Wines


Irvine Wines

Hither & Yon



Giant Steps

Trifon Estate

Thistledown Wines

Handpicked Wines

Casella Family Brands

Evans & Tate

First Drop

Bass Philip

Yangarra Estate Vineyard


Tastings list South Korea (Seoul)

Tertini Wines

Audrey Wilkinson

Gapstead Wines

Nocton Vineyard

Philip Shaw Wines

Thorn – Clarke Wines

Fowles Wines

Brown Brothers

Devil’s Corner

Moorilla Estate

Yangarra Estate Vineyard

Mt Langi Ghiran


Yering Station


Grant Burge Wines


Schubert Estate Wines

Voyager Estate

Irvine Wines



Hither & Yon


Wolf Blass




Hickenbotham Clarendon Vineyard

Giant Steps

De Bortoli

Oliverhill Wines

Smidge Wines


Gatt Wines

Robert Oatley

Farmer's Leap


Bass Philip

Tyrrell’s Wines

Moss Wood Wines

Noon Winery

Two Hands Wines

Shaw & Smith

Ceravolo Premium Wines

Wirra Wirra Vineyards


Robert Oatley Wines


AB Mauri



WID 2017