Free trade between China and Australia is turning sour following Beijing’s November announcement that Australian wine imports would be subject to a massive 200 percent import tariff. Unsurprisingly, demand for Australian wine in China became practically non-existent – a major blow for many Australian wine producers.
At Manor Estate in Australia’s McLaren Vale, however, spirits remain buoyant. The boutique winery relies on the export market, but instead of targeting China, it chose the US. “In hindsight, it was an excellent decision,” says Peter Cap, founder of the winery. “With China out of the equation for the foreseeable future, the top two export destinations for Australian wine are the US and the UK. Manor Estate focused on the US and export volumes continue to grow.”
They Took Manhattan – Then the US
When Manor Estate developed its marketing strategy, the boutique winery, which specialises in the production of naturally aged wines, decided to concentrate its marketing efforts on the US rather than trying to compete with a plethora of brands at home. “Manor Estate signature wines are worthy of attention, but getting that attention at home would have meant setting the winery up to compete with household names. The wines deserve to stand out from the crowd, so they were marketed where they would have the best chance of doing just that,” Peter explains. “It started as a dream. If Manor Estate could win over Manhattan’s top venues, its future in the US would be assured.”
With no external funding at its disposal, the family-run business chose an in-person marketing approach that targeted the gourmet eateries and plush bars where New York’s rich and famous congregate. The brand was more than export-ready. It was already exporting, albeit on a relatively small scale, when it achieved recognition from Wine Australia’s US market entry program. The winery became one of only a handful selected to benefit from Wine Australia’s mentorship and network of US contacts. Peter comments that this stimulus resulted in an unprecedented response and that the organisation was sufficiently impressed to send congratulatory messages to the Manor Estate team.
Manor Estate: Building Relationships and Showing its Worth
Peter and daughter Sharleen, who now lives and works in New York as Manor Estate’s on-the-ground presence, say that their success was based on several factors. First and foremost, the quality of their wine, and secondly, the ability to build and maintain relationships. The winery submitted to the rigors of a Wine Enthusiast rating process and received excellent reviews for their signature sparkling wines, but Peter and Sharleen were also working hard at building their network among the trendsetters in the US wine industry. “When Gary Vaynerchuk gave Manor Estate the thumbs up, it was a huge victory for the brand,” says Peter.
But tough times were on the horizon as the Covid-19 pandemic began its rampage across the globe. Manor Estate continued to foster relationships, however, even donating free wine to top venues now struggling owing to the need for lockdowns and social distancing. “They knew Manor Estate cared, and though some of them, including the Roosevelt Hotel, were sadly unable to stay afloat, Manor Estate is proud to have stood by them during this difficult time,” says Peter. Choosing the US as the primary target for their marketing had unexpected benefits at home too. When people hear about Manor Estate taking New York by storm, they’re eager to taste the wines that made it happen, says Peter, and the Manor Estate Wine Club is seeing rising support among Australians who, having discovered the brand, are eager to enjoy a steady supply of its finest wines.
Manor estate offers wine events, a romantic wedding venue and luxury accommodation in McLaren Vale. For more information, or join their wine club, visit the Manor Estate Wines website or call their team of experts on (08) 8383 7300.