Wine Australia's Yvonne May was a visionary pioneer

08 September, 2014

The wine trade lost one of its most dedicated and well-respected figures last week with the sad passing of Yvonne May. Many readers will know her best for her four-year stint as the UK and European head of Wine Australia, a role she approached with such passion and energy it was easy to believe it was a job she had longed to do.

Wine Australia carried out an exhaustive search in its determination to ensure it found the very best person for the job, and it certainly achieved this with Yvonne.

Fired up by more than 25 years’ experience in the trade, including six as Rosemount’s UK & European marketing manager, after which she established her own marketing agency, she was the ideal candidate. Her appointment followed a to steady the ship, but set it on a whole new course.

Yvonne told me she wanted to reflect Australia’s sense of enthusiasm and directness, which she managed with warmth and humour.

Her appointment followed a tumultuous period for both the organisation and the Australian wine category – and it needed someone of her calibre and charisma to step in – not just She was a breath of fresh air, considered and strategic. She took time to listen to what key players in the trade wanted before announcing her thought-through plan, which was innovative in the world of generic marketing, eschewing dull, stale ideas for the fresh and bold.

A visit to her UK office was never what you expected. On one occasion, I arrived to a full-on TV crew, which, on leaving, gave way to mugs of tea and birthday cakes for one of the many talented staff in her team – who she took pride in praising and developing – and an impromptu tasting. It was frenetic, energised and infectiously fun.

Her revitalised trade tasting at the beginning of this year was hailed as one of the best Australia has produced in years and her commercial awareness drove her vision for events. Anyone who attended the mould-breaking University Challenge tours, where her insistence that wine education needed to be laid-back shone out, would have been as entertained as they were impressed by her vision.

Some suppliers have said Yvonne gave Australia both a complete overhaul and set the bar for generic marketers – not just in the UK, but worldwide as her strategies were adopted throughout Wine Australia’s markets.

Yvonne was a visionary pioneer and a fantastic ambassador for the trade, which will long remember the considerable contribution she made.

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