Hazel Murphy, the face behind Antipodean wine in Europe as head of the Australian Wine Bureau, talks to NATASHA HUGHES.
Asked to describe a typical day, Hazel Murphy, CEO of the Australian Wine Bureau in London, laughs. ‘There’s no such thing,’ she explains, ‘but what I can say for certain is that I never get bored.’It’s 2pm, but so far Murphy has written a feature for a magazine; found an Oz-based Spanish-speaking exporter to organise shipments of wine for El Bulli, one of Spain’s most prestigious restaurants; been in touch with the Australian embassy in Madrid to organise a tasting next February and set the agenda for a visit to Australia by a party of 32 Dutch and Belgian sommeliers. Now that that’s out of the way, she can move on to the next tasks on her list. ‘I’ve got someone coming in to discuss a new website we’re launching, then I’ll ring a few journalists who are going out to Australia soon about what they’re doing. After that I want to speak to a trade magazine about a possible supplement, write up a presentation and organise a trip for myself.’ She spends much of her time on the road, commenting that she was ‘born to travel’. On average, she’s in Australia for just over two months a year, in London for about 100 nights and living out of a suitcase for another 100.
Home, which she visits rarely, is a little house in the middle of the Peak National Park, far from the buzz and glamour of the wine world.Murphy seems completely at home with her gruelling schedule – a good thing because, since 1985, she has been the face of the Australian wine industry not only in the UK, but also in Germany, Denmark, Ireland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria and Norway.
From a start that she describes as ‘Me, a desk and an answering machine’, she has seen a phenomenal growth in public interest in Australian wines, but is mindful of the fact that, despite the hype, in global terms the industry is still relatively small. ‘You see all these articles about how we’re taking over the world, but it’s a joke,’ she says. ‘As a country, we only produce about the same amount of wine each year as Bordeaux, or half the Languedoc-Roussillon.’She’s passionate about the product she promotes, however, and is even optimistic about the prospects for Austrailian wine sales in southern Europe. ‘I believe the Mediterranean countries have great potential,’ she says.From the word go, promotion of Australian wine worldwide has centred around tastings. ‘I’ve always worked from the premise that, as a consumer, what I would want was to taste the wine before buying it. So that’s what we do – we put glasses in people’s hands so they can try the stuff.’ In addition to consumer tastings, the Australian Wine Bureau is renowned for its Australia Day trade tastings. This year they’ll be taking place in London, Scotland, Ireland, Copenhagen and Stockholm. Murphy will then take the roadshow to New York where, in addition to tastings, she’s organising a conference on Australian wine.
If the success of Australian wine in Europe has indeed grown out of all proportion to the size of the industry, it’s partly down to Murphy’s hard work, vision and tireless enthusiasm. As the Aussies would no doubt say, ‘Good on her’.