It is my privilege to present Wine Australia’s Annual Report 2019–20 on behalf of the Board and the team.
The year was a busy and successful one, where we delivered the final year of the Strategic Plan 2015–20, developed our new Strategic Plan 2020–25 and rose to the challenges of fires and the coronavirus pandemic.
In the first 6 months, we delivered key face-to-face components of the Federal Government’s $50 million Export and Regional Wine Support Package ($50m Package) that showcased the quality and diversity of Australia’s fine wine and tourism offering, and raised the perception of – and demand for – Australian wine in China and the United States of America (USA).
The keystone Far From Ordinary campaign in September and October delivered the largest-ever promotion of Australian wine to the trade, consumers and media in the USA. In November, back-to-back events in Shanghai celebrated Australian wine at the China International Import Expo, Wine Australia’s China Awards, the Wine Australia Pavilion at ProWine China and the Decanter Shanghai Fine Wine Encounter.
It was likewise with our research, development and extension (RD&E) investments and activities and our regulatory responsibilities; the focus in the first six months was on delivering against our Annual Operational Plan 2019–20 (AOP).
Without downplaying the impact on the individuals affected, the sector was fortunate that the fires over summer affected less than one per cent of vineyards. Wine Australia, together with the sector’s peak representative body Australian Grape & Wine Incorporated (AGW) and the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI), worked to ensure that growers and winemakers had access to the latest information on vineyard remediation and grape testing to inform their decision making. We also invested in further research to ensure Australia stays at the forefront of managing the challenges from wildfires.
As the coronavirus pandemic evolved, we had to change the way we delivered our in-market activities, increasing our emphasis on social and digital engagement and retailer and distributor promotions. Elements of the $50m Package could not be delivered within the originally envisaged timeframes and, with the Federal Government’s approval, the Package was extended to 30 June 2021.
Domestically we worked with AGW to ensure that the sector was properly informed as the way we worked and ran our businesses changed. Wine Australia focused on continuing to deliver our services to the sector while reducing our operating costs.
We conducted face-to-face stakeholder consultations on the wine sector’s priorities for our new Strategic Plan across the country in 2019 in concert with AGW as it developed the sector’s new, 30-year Vision 2050. Our plan sets out how Wine Australia’s activities and investments will contribute to Vision 2050 and its goal of profitable, resilient and sustainable winegrape and wine businesses.
Over the next five years, we will invest more than $200 million in R&D, marketing, regulation and adoption. We have laid the foundations to ensure that we are well placed to respond to future challenges by strengthening our governance structures (following an independent performance review of our board) and reducing operational expenditure.
Wine Australia is a founding member of the new collaborative Research and Development Corporation (RDC) investment vehicle being established to address cross-sectoral issues at scale such as climate change, water use and biosecurity. We consider a joint approach to broader issues will help deliver better value and outcomes for our stakeholders.
In closing, I would like to acknowledge the stellar contribution of Brian Walsh, Wine Australia’s inaugural Chair, who stepped down at the end of September 2019. Brian’s service to the wine community and his contribution, compassion and commitment cannot be overstated. I would also like to recognise Cath Oates’ stewardship as Acting Chair during the year and to thank all of my fellow Directors for their contribution and support. Thanks also to Chief Executive Officer Andreas Clark and the global Wine Australia team for their dedication to the Australian grape and wine sector and their constant focus on delivering value for the sector’s investment.