HARVEY River Estate managing director Kevin Sorgiovanni says his SEEKWINE Australia initiative was born out of “frustration” at trying to determine how to sell his own wine products, to compete against the two major supermarkets.
“Getting a wine producer’s license is step one and step two is how do you sell the wine to consumers,” he said.
“I decided to build this website after deciding I couldn’t do it on my own and the idea was really about farming together.
“Barnaby Joyce has an initiative called ‘farming together’ and so I decided to bring together wineries throughout Australia, for a similar purpose, to sell our wines together and send a positive message to consumers about the great story behind our products.”
Agriculture and Water Resources Minister Barnaby Joyce launched the SEEKWINE Australia digital platform during an event at Parliament House in Canberra last night and acknowledged the new online tool’s role in challenging Coles and Woolworths.
In his speech, Mr Joyce said in GDP figures Australian agriculture was responsible for more growth than any other sector.
“You’ve got to take agriculture seriously if you want to take the economy of our nation seriously because it’s really delivering,” he said.
“And one of the best examples of that is the wine industry – going from $2.2 billion, it’s going to be $3.5b by 2020 – this is amazing growth.”
Mr Joyce said the wine industry was experiencing its best prices since 2008 with “big volume” and good price into markets like China while re-establishing connections into the UK market, getting volume into the US and “tapping new markets”.
“People understand quality and it’s not fair that it just goes to the big corporates,” he said.
“We want to make sure that families are attached to this.
“The biggest thing in this job, that I believe, is to get a better return back through the farm gate, but underneath that is the word families.
“And there’s no better passion you see than in the wine industry.
“They start with a passion for a product and they’re limited in many instances only by their innate desire to get to the highest level they possibly can.
“That passion then becomes a product and becomes a name and that name is attached to that cellar door.
“This (SEEKWINE Australia) is something that allows us to find the great wines that aren’t the major corporate wines of WA, of the Barossa, of the Hunter Valley, of the Yarra, of Margaret River, of Stanthorpe and all those great wines of St George which is predominantly ports.
“This is something that I hope people participate in and underneath that see that when you buy one of these (wines) you can actually go back to a kitchen table where a family resides and a family is actually attached to that product and they actually get the benefit and there will never be a better way for that family to actually invest in their area.”
WA Liberal MP Nola Marino said she was also “very supporting” of the SEEKWINE objective of trying to hold the two major supermarkets to account by wine producers working together.
“I’m very supportive of this initiative and Australian wines being sold around the world especially from our great south-west where we have some great brands,” she said.
“We want consumers to make a choice and that is the small family winery.
“And once they try the wines they’ll become loyal customers and then they can connect not only with the wine itself but the family behind the wine, making the product.”
Mr Sorgiovanni said SEEKWINE gave small winemakers and producers a vehicle to sell product directly to consumers via a single online platform.
“There are many small wineries that sell to the big retailers and so be it,” he said.
“But our idea is to have a go, for the small guy, who doesn’t have the ability to market their product to the masses.
“We want consumers to come to our website and learn all about our great wineries and how we make our wines and connect to the story behind them.
“At the end of the day there’s some great quality wines out there and all we’re saying is, learn about the wine regions and the families they’re made in and understand where the wine comes from and that there’s a bit of care and know-how with what we do.”
As well as other founders of the SEEKWINE group and Mr Joyce and Ms Marino, the launch was also attended by Assistant Agriculture and Water Resources Minister Anne Ruston, Victorian Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie, SA Liberal MP Tony Pasin, new WA Liberal Senator Slade Brockman and Queensland Labor MP Milton Dick.
Mr Joyce said Australia’s wine exports are forecast to exceed 800 million litres and $2.5b in 2017–18 and had a target is $3.5b by 2021.
“The increase in value, volume and jobs in the industry doesn’t happen by accident it happens by planning and investment, such as the $50 million Export and Regional Wine Support Package I recently announced in Adelaide with Assistant Minister Anne Ruston,” he said.
“Our wine industry currently supports over 172,000 jobs across Australia and is on the cusp of real growth, especially for exports, and the SEEKWINE joint venture by a group of small wineries has come at the perfect time.
“This is a fantastic collaborative initiative, involving family owned wineries across Australia pooling their resources to take advantage of export opportunities and boost farmgate returns.”