Meet Amanda Longworth, global wine industry expert and Brand and Strategy Manager at the Barossa Grape & Wine Association. Early in her career Amanda was leading marketing and communications across Asia for one of the oldest English wine merchants, and educating the “next wave” of celebrity sommeliers. Now, Amanda uses her invaluable experience and wine market knowledge to champion both Barossa Valley and Australian wine.
Before I give too much away, let’s dive into Amanda’s story and find out what she has to say about the current state and future of wine.
Also, stay in the loop on all things Barossa by following @barossawines on Instagram.
What was it about wine that led you to where you are today?
I have always loved talking about what I was tasting and smelling, but felt I didn’t have enough understanding of wine. I was lucky to be given as a gift the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 2 course while living in Hong Kong. Once I completed that, I went straight on to do WSET Level 3. One of my tutor’s, Jeannie Cho Lee MW, was consulting to Berry Bros & Rudd (BBR) on their education program, so I was then recruited to lead and build their new Fine Wine School. BBR is one of the oldest English wine merchants, so they had access to some of the best producers around the world. So from here there wasn’t any turning back, 14 years on in the wine trade, I couldn’t imagine working in any other industry.
Prior to your time in the Barossa you gained extensive experience in the wine industry overseas, particularly with Hong Kong. Tell us a bit about this.
I spent 13 years in Hong Kong, ten years of which were spent working with BBR where I ended up leading the marketing and communications across Asia, this included Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore. All markets are so distinct, so the role was very diverse, from educating the “next wave” of celebrity sommeliers, developing business plans in Singapore to hosting corporate events and wine dinners in Hong Kong. Given BBR’s extensive relationships in Europe, I was also fortunate to travel to many of the world’s most famous wine regions and attend some fabulous wine events in London and at Berry’s historic home in St James’.
What do you feel you gained through studying and teaching wine overseas?
I continued my love of learning about wine by completing my WSET Diploma and then embarking on the arduous Master of Wine program, which I was in for four years.
Furthering my education made me a better wine educator. I love teaching about wine. There is great satisfaction in unlocking students’ skills and opening their eyes to the array of different wine styles there are globally. This also gives them the courage and confidence to experiment more. Students also ask hard questions, so often you have to go back to the books to check, even as the teacher you are learning! For me personally, the deeper understanding of both theory and tasting, opens up broader conversations whether it be with a viticulturist or a winemaker, or even wine media. So now I continue to build on my learning in a more social context.
What led you to your role as the Brand Strategy Manager at Barossa Grape & Wine Association?
I am from Sydney, and with almost 20 years of living away, it was time to come home. My Canadian husband agreed, with one stipulation, “anywhere except Adelaide”. When this role came up, my response was “well you did say ‘not’ Adelaide”. The role was exactly what I wanted, which meant becoming a part of a wine community. And not just in any wine region – Australia’s leading region! I had been here before and taught people about the Barossa for so many years. So it was a great opportunity to take on a role to continue to build the Barossa brand, and to be working side by side with some of the best winemakers in Australia. Impossible to say no!
How do the marketing and engagement activities in the wine industry overseas compare to Australia?
There is a lot of commonality. At the end of the day, people love to get together to share, talk and learn about wine. So wine dinners, masterclasses, education courses, and large scale tastings are all commonplace. The extent of formalised learning, particularly in Japan and Hong Kong is probably greater. The key difference is the amount and diversity of European wine. Hong Kong with it’s zero tax policy, means there is a plethora of wines across a vast range of styles, countries and price points. Great for consumers and wine geek alike.
In what ways would you like to see Australian wineries and regions, such as the Barossa, engage with consumers?
From a regional perspective, in a smaller, more intimate way. We have had great success with large scale events, but we want to create greater emotional connections, and you can only do this in smaller settings. Our wineries do this well, but it’s something we are looking to implement as well.
What are the main challenges producers face when it comes to building brand awareness and connecting with the market?
Consumer choice- it is so vast, and that’s just in Australia, let alone what is on offer from overseas. Our producers definitely have the advantage of trading off the brand awareness and reputation that Barossa has built, so it gives consumers something to grasp onto that they have either heard about or know. It takes a huge amount of effort from finding the right distributor, who can confidently represent your brand, and has access to the right end users, to having the time, money and energy to do market visits. We all say relationships in any business are key, so you can build a direct relationship with a sommelier in one restaurant, but once he leaves, you have to start all over again with the next one.
What do you feel the Australian wine industry should be focusing on in the next 5 years?
Market diversification– either through channels and export markets. Harder than it sounds though! So we need to keep working on building preference and awareness around the quality of brand “Australian Wine”.
Sustainability– this is a huge topic, and one that needs to be real as opposed to greenwashing. It includes expanding sustainable viticultural techniques that focus on a legacy around landscape, and the ugly side of the business such as waste.
Resilient wine communities– this is about ensuring that we are a sector of choice for employment across the supply chain. We need to ensure that we are encouraging the bright, young new talent into the industry.
How important is it for wine consumers to be able to identify legitimate products via anti-counterfeit measures?
Exceedingly important. There is so much energy that goes into producing a bottle of wine, which starts in the vineyard and goes right through to getting wine in the hands of the end consumer. Counterfeit wines have the potential to damage brand reputation. It is imperative that the consumer has a guarantee that they are paying for what the label says it is.
When you are out and choosing a wine to drink, what do you look for?
If I am at a restaurant I always look to see which Barossa wines are on the list. Then what I look for will typically depend on the occasion, how much I want to spend and how experimental I feel. I like to taste widely, so I will often go for something like a Gruner Veltliner from Wachau, Austria or a Chenin Blanc from Savennieres, France. For reds, perhaps something that has a bit of age to it, often this turns out to be a gem from Barossa.
What is the most memorable glass of wine you’ve ever had?
I have had a couple, but I suppose the most memorable was in Madeira. I was visiting Vinhos Barbeito and we were at the pointy end of the tasting. As I was writing my notes, our host turned his back to pour the last wine. My husband spotted that – and said “looks like that one might be special!” He gave me the glass, and said “Can you guess the Vintage?”- my first response was “Is it this century?”. It was an 1848 Malmsey. Amazing to drink history from a glass.