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Unlocking international wine secrets

by Jon Brooks

Armando Corsi (back) and Larry Lockshin.Australian and European wine marketers can learn a lot from each other. A collaboration between researchers at UniSA and the University of Florence is attempting to unravel the secrets of the international wine market for the benefit of both regions.

Despite sharing a passion for wine, the Australian and the European food and wine experiences are significantly different across each country.

PhD student in agricultural economics at the University of Florence, Armando Corsi is undertaking a three-month placement at UniSA’s City West campus, working alongside long-time collaborator Professor Larry Lockshin at the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science. Part of his mission here is to understand the consumer trends that drive Australia’s restaurant wine market, so that he can use the same methodology to better understand European diners’ tastes.

"In Australia you have something like 100 different wine regions and subregions, whereas in Italy we have more than 300 designations of origin in a country that is much smaller geographically," Corsi said.

"Our wine is very much a regional thing - you might have a choice of only 10 different wines in a restaurant and nearly always they will be local, quite literally from the local town.

"It’s very rare or only in fine dining establishments that you see imported wines or an extensive wine list in an Italian restaurant, and I come from Florence which has a culture synonymous with dining out.

"Here in Australia it’s quite the opposite. Go to any restaurant and there’ll be a very extensive wine list with bottles from Australia, New Zealand, Europe, maybe the US - it’s very different.

"The other main difference is that in Australia, the range of food you can get is much wider – in Florence, you cannot get a sushi roll anywhere - forget it, they just don’t exist.

"We’re getting some North African and Chinese food but we’re still predominantly eating the local cuisine, so by studying the way consumers behave here in Australia where the choice is much greater, I think we can learn a great deal about where the Italian market will be heading."

Prof Lockshin said the research is aimed at cracking one of the oldest questions in wine marketing.

"Nobody really knows why people buy the wines they do in restaurants, we know that overwhelmingly people buy what they’ve tasted before, and there are some other cultural factors like recommendations from friends," Lockshin said.

"But just as important is the need to understand which factors influence consumers to buy certain wines and not others, and that’s also part of our research.

"The study that Armando is carrying out here with Dr Cam Rungie and some of our other researchers, looks at quantative data and repeat purchase data, which can offer some very telling information about wine preferences.

"There’s a misconception that just because Europeans have a longer association with wines than we do here in Australia, they think more about their wines, but that’s just not the case."

Prof Lockshin said the research would also help open up new markets for Australian exports, based on the successes some European countries have experienced.

"In the past we made the mistake of trying to achieve volume exports, going for the supermarket shoppers and telling them that Australia makes perfectly good, reliable wine that can be bought cheaply. The impression that gave was that if you wanted something fine you’d have to buy French, Spanish or Italian wines.

"With China, Brazil and Taiwan opening up as markets now, we’re in a great position to try to avoid making those mistakes again."

For Corsi though, the chance to visit Australia is not only a chance to taste some great wines, but to work on the coalface of wine marketing research.

"UniSA really is a leader in this field, you have the only formally built wine marketing centre in the world – other institutions have a person or two working in the field, but UniSA is by far the leader in this regard," Corsi said.

UniSA’s Wine Marketing Group, as part of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science at the School of Marketing, has strong market research capabilities, including a computer-based 25 seat telephone research centre.

"The Wine Marketing Group is a focal point for information, research, and professional development in all aspects of the wine sector," Prof Lockshin said.

"From the vineyard through to production, wholesaling and retailing, the Group provides customised research and specialised training in all aspects of wine marketing.

"The Group really is an asset, not just for UniSA, but for the whole of Australia’s wine industry."

Corsi’s placement at City West concludes in early June, with his PhD scheduled for completion in November.

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