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Plans afoot to make Australia hub for wine tourism

Many people enjoy a few glasses of wine when they are on holiday, but tourism officials in Australia are hoping that fans of the beverage will soon be visiting the country specifically to sample homegrown varieties and learn about their history.

Australian Grape and Wine Authority (AGWA) chairman Brian Walsh told the Adelaide Advertiser his organisation is planning a big drive to target international wine tourists and attract them to the many "smaller wineries scattered right across our country that don't actually export but rely heavily on cellar door and people coming to regions".

The AGWA is currently holding an extensive consultation with the wine and tourism industry with a view to putting specific plans in place that will encourage travellers to book flights Down Under for a wine-themed break.

In particular, Mr Walsh said he wants to challenge the idea that Australian wines are simply lower-end, affordable drops and prompt people to think of them as high-quality drinks to enjoy with a meal or on their own.

Indeed, he is keen to push for them to be recognised as akin to those produced in France or Spain.

"We're bringing down barriers and assumptions that Australia is a colonial outpost," the expert said.

The AGWA currently has links to Tourism Australia in London, Shanghai, Sydney and San Francisco, so it may well be that visitors from these locations are targeted first to become wine tourists.

Until the late 1970s, Australia was known mostly for its sweet and fortified wines, but this has changed dramatically and the country is now a world leader in terms of the quantity and quality of wines it produces.

There are more than 60 designated wine regions nationwide, with shiraz vineyards in South Australia's Barossa Valley, sauvignon blanc in Western Australia's Margaret River and flagship chardonnay in the Yarra Valley near Melbourne.

Almost every region has its own annual festival where local wine, food and culture can be sampled, so there is no shortage of things to do for people who are swayed by this latest tourism drive and choose to book wine-themed holidays in Australia.

Meanwhile, Australian wine is likely to also enjoy a higher profile in Hong Kong, after it was selected as the country of honour for the Vinexpo there in May 2018. This is the only trade-only wine and spirits exhibition in the Asia-Pacific region and chief executive of Wine Australia Andreas Clarke said it is a "brilliant opportunity to shine the light on the diversity and premium quality of Australian wine".

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