Despite the wonderful wines being produced in the Alpine Valleys, as a region it doesn't have the brand recognition that King Valley, Rutherglen, Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula have.
Binary Blue China Connect visited the region to taste the wines and to check out the opportunities for sales to the Chinese market.
As we reported in a previous post, the Chinese wine market is changing, drifting away from the traditional brands (Penfolds, etc) to the genuinely boutique.
Boutique wines are a-plenty in Alpine Valleys. Testifying to this fact, Bright Electric Bikes has a brilliant selection of regional wines for sale - a couple of racks worth - personally sampled by the store owners (yes, you read right - it's a bike shop!). Unfortunately, these are only available to the shop visitor.
Billy Button Wines, situated around the corner from the bike shop, has developed an innovative production model. They carefully select fruit from the growers in the region and under the guiding hand of Jo Marsh (currently in China), produce a lovely range of wines, which are sold in their freshly renovated Bright store and online.
Just outside Bright is the highly recommended Ringer Reef vineyard, and located with a fabulous view, producing some of the best wine with 10 acres of vines. They intentionally want to keep it small, so wines are only available for the visitor at the cellar door.
Down the road is Feathertop, with their gorgeous location and classy restaurant (you can also stay there). Their business plan is a Membership Club selecting a range of whites and reds, which they then send quarterly all over the state and beyond. Available to purchase online, they have no interest in exporting at this stage.
Indigo not far from Beechworth is very worthy of a visit to taste their range and witness their outstanding new label design. Wines are available online and they have just now started to export to China.
Compared to other wine growing Victorian regions, this is a relatively new area (grapes replaced the tobacco farms), so there is a way to go to successfully brand and create national and international attention.
Tourism is one way - in attracting Chinese visitors to the region. Regional branding is another, to get the region name and reputation spread more widely. As for export, the Indigo experience will be invaluable. But as all products have found, it's no good just getting it to market: promotion (via Chinese social media) is essential.
(Binary Blue China Connect apologises to all the other vineyards that we didn't visit - only so many you can sample over a couple of days! - and we had to drive back to Melbourne.)