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Wine Australia axes wine export panel

Wine Australia has axed its controversial export approval panel with immediate effect, replacing it with a permanent company audit regime.

Australian wineries: no more export approval

The changes are the result of a consultation by Wine Australia (formerly the Australian Wine & Brandy Corporation), the Government statutory authority responsible for wine export compliance and regulation, a statement released yesterday says.

Exporters will no longer have to submit their wines for approval but they will be licensed and will be subject to audit, and must provide wine for comprehensive testing as required.

The auditing process will be expanded, Wine Australia says, with auditors visiting wineries to inspect records, examine labels and collect samples of exported wines.

Wine Australia’s chief executive Andrew Cheesman stressed that standards required for exported wines had not changed, ‘but our approach to administering these standards will move from reliance on pre-export product inspections to a risk-based approach.’

Industry needs had changed, he said. ‘When the current export controls were first introduced four decades ago, Australian table wine was hardly known overseas and there was a risk that even one faulty wine could hurt our reputation.’

The Australian Wine Export Council panel, which was set up in 1929, was embroiled in controversy last year, with senior commentators and producers complaining it was out of touch after wines that had been lauded by critics were rejected for export.

Journalist Tim White derided the panel’s process as ‘ridiculous’ and ‘anachronistic’.

Under the new system there will be an increased emphasis on ensuring winemakers understand the workings of the international regulatory environment, instead of judging wine quality.

‘We see that as our role in the modern, global industry. The market place and consumers should be the arbiter of wine quality,’ Cheesman said.

The new system will be fully implemented over the next 12 months, with the support of the industry’s representative body, the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia. All existing export licences remain current.

Written by Adam Lechmere

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