When Henry Hudson relocated to the United States from Australia a few years ago, he found that the wines he’d enjoyed down under weren’t always available in his new country of residence. So he decided to do something about it. Hudson partnered with Tom Donegan, an Australian sommelier now based in Los Angeles, and Rob Geddes, a Master of Wine, to form Hudson Wine Brokers in early 2014.
The firm, which represents nine Australian wineries, aims to gain traction in a highly competitive U.S. market that hasn’t been friendly to Australian wines in recent years. “We set out with a deliberate strategy of trying to highlight Australia’s regionality rather than be pigeonholed into Barossa Valley or McLaren Vale Shiraz, which is where the perception lies,” Hudson says.
Hudson Wine Brokers sought a mix of small producers new to the U.S. market and players who had once had a presence, but bailed when the market for Australian wine tanked in the late 2000s. Hudson says the wines are representative of their respective regions. “They’re all family-owned boutique wineries and produce wines that we believe are true to terroir,” he notes.
The company is one of several Australian wine importers attempting to gain or regain footing in the U.S. market by eschewing the low-priced entrants that initially brought Australian wines to the fore and instead focusing on higher-priced, boutique-style wines. That strategy is working, at least anecdotally. While bottled wine shipments from Australia fell 9.9 percent to 11.5 million cases in 2014, according to Impact Databank, the story is different for wines at premium price points. Chris Adams, CEO of New York City retail shop Sherry-Lehmann, says Australian wine is still struggling, but “there is a little bit of dynamism” for higher-end wines, although the growth is off a much diminished base. Bruce Cunningham, vice president of sales and marketing at The Wine Trees Portfolio, agrees. “There is some momentum,” he says, adding that the strongest growth is in the $15-to-$25 category.