Paul Schaafsma, general manager for the UK and Europe, has criticised the body’s plans, arguing they are too focused on a regionality message.
He said: “Australia is fighting for its survival in the UK. The only way we can retain our share is if the campaign addresses the issue of Australia’s changing styles.
“Eighty per cent of consumers don’t care where a wine comes from. For me, it all comes back to style. Wine Australia said it was considering organising a tasting of commercial brands, which we would welcome. But I’ve seen the plans and there’s nothing about that in there which concerns me. We have challenged them to say how we are going to get commercial value and instructed our chief executive in Australia not to pay the bill.”
Richard Trimby, Foster’s EMEA marketing director, said: “Wine Australia’s focus on its regional heroes programme is the ideal platform for regular and highly engaged wine drinkers. But with regards to protecting Australia’s number-one spot in the UK , and growing our presence in other European markets, we believe there needs to be more of a focus on Brand Australia.
“We want to keep up our high level of investment to ensure there is scale and impact to activity, but at the same time we need to ensure we are investing in a well-thought-out strategy.”
Pernod Ricard said it had settled its membership bill and fully backed Wine Australia. Aurelie Kane, the company’s head of communications said: “We’ve had concerns in the past which we’ve fed back to Wine Australia. We are supportive – we need a strong generic body.”
Lisa McGovern, Wine Australia’s director for UK, Ireland and Europe, said she was disappointed that Australian Vintage would not participate in the programme.
“We believe the annual promotional programme represents initiatives which speak to Australian Vintage’s portfolio, and targets mainstream and fine wine sectors,” she said. “Australia needs to drive new consumers into the category with sampling initiatives and education.
“It is vital the programme reflects the needs and direction of the category as a whole, as opposed to the commercial imperatives of any one member.
“In terms of companies renewing their membership we are currently tracking above last year, both for the UK programme and globally, which I think clearly signifies the support for our activities across the small, medium and largest producers in Australia.
“Based on the meetings I am having in Australia currently I am confident that we will see a continued uptake in the promotional programme for 2009/10.”