I am one of the lucky ones. I import wine, beer and mineral water that people actually want to buy. For the last couple of years the hardest part has been keeping up with demand. More demand means more stock and more stock means more money. Makes sense really.
It is not just my company that has been busy. Nearly every importer of Italian wine into Australia has enjoyed a successful last few years. How do I know this?
Because we all talk. We all eat and drink together on a regular basis.
Many of the Italian wine importers in Australia have a close bond: we are not enemies but rather joint promoters of all the things that are so good about Italy. I have not been in the game long enough as an importer of Italian wine to work out if this is how it has always been or if it is a result of a younger generation stepping in and deciding to all work closely together.
Maybe our closeness would not be the case if the market for Italian wines in Australia was not as strong. We are still in an area of the economy (and market) that is growing. However a strong and resilient market in Australia will not necessarily mean that there will be many more new Italian producers in the short to medium term.
Whilst the market for Italian wines in Australia is strong, nearly every Italian importer is hesitant on taking on any new producers. Maybe it is a nervousness about what lies ahead? Via Mondo Imports, we represent close to twenty wineries from Italy and this is where I would like to keep it. Twenty wineries is more than enough in a country like Australia where we really only have a few strong markets (unlike the America or Europe).
However, unless new companies are established and more people look to import Italian wine I feel for those wineries in Italy without distribution in Australia (or any other market). Each week I would get over a dozen Italian wineries contact me offering me their wines. Does anyone ever read the email and then take on distribution of their wines in their market? I doubt so.
So why then send these emails?
Because they need to sell wine. You are not going to sell wine but not being proactive and you cannot blame these wineries for being proactive.
Next year we will take on just one new winery and this was a decision that I thought about over the last month or so. It is not because I thought the wines might NOT stack up. The opposite: the wines are amazing and blew me away when I tried them in Italy. It is just that in this environment, even though things have been good. I am wary and cautious.
Why am I cautious?
Cautious because who knows if the Australian market will still remain strong. It is this cautiousness that will be a big problem for those wineries in Italy. If many markets decide to ‘shut shop’ then how will these wineries without already established distribution find a home?
It is a million dollar question and it seems one of the only way forward for many is to send emails blindly in the hope that someone will take the bait.