Syrah is synonymous with South Australia's Barossa Valley, as is Chardonnay from Western Australia's Margaret River. These regional characteristics of Australia are highly regarded and have an enviable reputation in overseas markets. But can the terroir effect be used to highlight the region and thus achieve premium prices for wines in international markets? A recent terroir exploration in Australia has revealed new findings.
Image from: China Wine Information Network
Dr Steve Goodman is an Associate Professor of Marketing at the University of Adelaide Business School and an active researcher in the field of wine marketing. He recently conducted a terroir study with colleagues from the Adelaide Business School, the White Institute and the University of California, Davis, to explore the relevance of wine style to the Geographical Indication (GI) of Australian wines, just as terroir does to European wine regions.
The study looked at Syrah and Chardonnay from four Australian appellations, from Margaret River, Yarra Valley, Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale. From this, the team was able to identify a range of factors associated with specific wine styles from these appellations. However, the results of the study showed that the chemical qualities and sensory attributes of the wines were undoubtedly influenced by human factors, such as production processes, storage methods and aging practices, rather than just natural and environmental factors. This makes it difficult to establish a reputation for quality based on geographical indications alone. Especially for overseas consumers, GI is a major way to learn about wine.
However, this could be good news for growers and producers. Dr. Goodman mentioned that the Old World uses AOCs to promote premium appellations, where growing techniques and winemaking are strictly controlled from viticulture to winemaking. Australian growers and producers, on the other hand, are not subject to such strict constraints, which allows the industry to produce different wines depending on the terroir, but as Dr. Goodman pointed out, terroir includes the human element in the production process. Marketing wines by appellation has been somewhat successful in Australia. But if the industry can create a stronger link between high quality wine styles and the appellation to which they belong, then these winemakers can make their products premium, thus benefiting the industry as a whole.
By now, appellation promotion has become a major marketing tool. One of the unique aspects of this study is its interdisciplinary nature, bringing together marketing and technical science. Dr. Goodman explains:This study allowed us to understand the nuances of technical analysis and wine description, and revealed how these analyses can contribute to marketing.