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Selling Sauvignon Blanc to the Kiwis

Jo Jalfon, New Zealand correspondent, The Australian & New Zealand Grapegrower & Winemaker

True-blue Australian wine company, Brown Brothers from Milawa, has achieved enviable local and international success. Among its key markets are the UK, Europe, South East Asia, Japan and New Zealand. The latter is where chief executive Ross Brown recently hosted wine writers and met trade to showcase the second vintage under the company’s premium Patricia brand.

This flagship range was first released in 2003 and named after the family’s beloved matriarch, Patricia Brown who died last September. The most recent releases in this multi award-winning wine series are 2002 Patricia Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz.

During his visit to Auckland, Ross Brown said the Patricia range was all about excellence and “whatever it takes to bring together every ounce of skill and experience in the vineyard and winery that will deliver the most complex varietal flavours”. Brown Brothers has enjoyed a long association with New Zealand and began exporting there around 30 years ago.

“We went to New Zealand when wine was something new and since then we have seen an evolution in the domestic market,” Brown said. “Our brand is now pretty well known and recognised so New Zealand has been pretty successful for us. In fact it comes about number three in terms of volume.”

During his association with New Zealand, Brown said he has learned what the country does well and vice versa.

“There is no point taking New Zealand wines head on when their wines are doing so well. So we have focused on exporting our full-bodied reds and wine styles unknown to New Zealand as opposed to Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Noir.”

Brown described New Zealand as a maturing market for Brown Brothers and said his focus for the past 15 years had been on red wines.

“It’s a good example of being in first and building a relationship with the market. It’s also about stickability and trusting in your wine. We are very much a brand-focused company and don’t regularly change labels. We are also not caught up in high volume markets which means we are able to stay very true to our brand.

Brown said the Patricia range is a prime example of this.

“It’s at the top of the tree and unquestionable in quality. We have very strict controls and expectations on our vineyards and concentrate on getting absolute complexity. Unless the wine is outstanding and excellent, it does not make the grade and we don’t sell it as Patricia. It has been a 10-year project to make these wines which are a benchmark standard for the company.”

Brown admits there are a few challenges facing an Australian exporter in New Zealand.

“The market is increasingly crowded and competitive and I fear some Australian producers use it as a dumping ground. We are pleased we do not play in that segment. You have to have a whole different mentality to do that. The only way you can be successful in New Zealand now is to find a different niche and really concentrate on it. If you came in with a Cabernet or Shiraz you are going to be eaten up and to find that niche today is a real challenge.”

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