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Tuesday, 04 March 2014 13:11

Q & A with Natalie Pizzini - Victorian Food and Wine Tourism Council Member

This month we asked Natalie Pizzini for her views on the wine industry and goals during her time on the Council. Here is what she had to say.

What do you see as the biggest issues currently facing the wine industry?
There are a number of issues facing our industry and some will require clever and innovative thinking to overcome. These include:

  • The declining number in visitors to regional cellar doors. An increase in the number of cellar doors in regional Victoria coupled with declining visitors has affected not only the spread but also the amount of tourist dollars coming into the regions. The challenge for some of the smaller operators is how do they innovate to attract visitors, and how do they work with their relevant industry bodies to build their businesses.
  • The high Aussie dollar is not helping. The trickle-down effect of the high Aussie dollar not only influences those who were exporting their wines, but smaller operators are now finding they are having to become more competitive on price due to reduced market share.
  • The WET rebate is always a big issue. Whilst changes are needed to aspects of the WET, to remove it completely would have a devastating impact on regional Victoria's economy. Being able to meet the maker in smaller operations provides many tourists with a great thrill and these experiences are as important to our industry as improved wine quality.

What opportunities do you see for the industry?
Some of the opportunities that I see include:

  • Producers embracing the production of new grape varieties that are more suited to certain climatic conditions
  • Seeking out new vineyard sites around our regions that will suit the growing of quality fruit.

Grape growers need to become responsive to change and embrace it. We need to listen to the science to build our businesses into the future.
Another opportunity is to embrace becoming makers, marketers, investors in tourism infrastructure and ultimately, an experience provider. As businesses in country Victoria become more sophisticated, so too do the job opportunities for young people. If our industry is prospering in country Victoria, so too are the communities.

During your time on the council is there anything specific which you would like to achieve?
My main focus will be to provide a voice for regional Victorian business owners who are impacted by the tourism industry. I would hope that by sitting around the table with representatives from Tourism Victoria that I can clearly convey the issues that the small to medium operators are dealing with and how certain decisions may impact the existence of these businesses. Regional tourism is of significant importance to these decision makers, but in these economic conditions we can never be certain of future changes to policy and strategy.

What is your favourite wine region?
My favourite wine region changes as the experiences provided in that region are enhanced. I do love producers who embrace change and produce wines that are made to a formula that they as producers have worked hard at perfecting.