Simon West has recently joined the board of Australian Vignerons. He runs his own wine consulting business and uses his decades of experience in wine retail to help growers and winemakers maximise their business potential.
We spoke with Simon to gain an insight into his views on the Australian wine industry and the importance of Australian Vignerons.
What is your past experience in the wine grape industry?
SW: I started Fullglass Management, a wine consulting business in 2004. My experience working in large and small wineries and as General Manager of an online wine retailer gives me a unique skillset that goes from the vine to the glass. I decided that these skills could be put to a broader use by helping growers and wineries across Australia.
The main function of our business is to help wineries with their export sales. We have developed an extensive network across the USA and Canada and we love to introduce Australian winemakers and growers to the world market. We also offer advice on blend styles to suit certain markets, pricing scenarios, branding, target markets and cost effective marketing programs.
Why is it so important for wine grape growers to have representation at a national level?
SW: Growing grapes is often an isolated career and it is important for growers to have a national voice. In the short time I have been a part of Australian Vignerons, I have already witnessed several positive changes that have ensured growers concerns are addressed.
The Australian Vignerons board is a skill based board of independent directors. What specific skills do you have that you think will help Australian wine grape growers?
SW: As mentioned, my skills are broad and well rounded. I have experience in every aspect of grape growing and winemaking which will give me the right perspective to ensure Australian Vignerons is meeting the needs of our members.
I also have unique insights into the wine industries around the world through my travels. I believe this knowledge will help Australian Vignerons keep growers at the forefront of market demands.
What challenges do you see on the horizon for Australian wine grape growers? How will Australian Vignerons help?
SW: One of the biggest things I have seen is that export markets (China in particular) are showing signs of absorbing any bulk surpluses we may have seen in the past.
To maintain strong demand, I think it will be important to continue with a solid marketing campaign that Australia is a producer of excellent value wines of a premium and consistent nature. As demand increases and supply tightens, we will see much better returns for all growers of all regions if we can uphold this messaging.
Australian Vignerons will hold a key role in ensuring the right marketing messages are being conveyed to the market. AV will also be integral in protecting our wine grape industry through maintaining biosecurity measures to ensure product quality and consistency. The reputation of our product is key to success.
What’s the most rewarding part of being involved in Australian Vignerons?
SW: The ability to share my skills, in particular export knowledge, with a dynamic team of like-minded board members has been fantastic. Australian Vignerons is a professional organisation committed to representing growers. It’s this professionalism and determination that will ultimately help the voice of wine grape growers be heard in all forums.
What variety of wine are you enjoying at the moment?
SW: If you were to take a look in my fridge you will find a Clare Valley Riesling!