Emma Baumann is the PR and Communications Manager at Wine Australia, where she looks after communications, keeps stakeholders informed about Wine Australia and their activities, and finds ways to promote Australian wine and share producers’ stories. Amanda Barnes interviews her to get to know a bit more about why she enjoys working with the Australian wine industry, how she got her first wine break in Perth (although not the city in Australia) and why raspberry ripple cake has become one of her more delicious lockdown achievements.
What is your earliest memory in wine?
My earliest memory of wine is that I didn’t like it! My parents had these horrible, small, crystal old goblet glasses and everything smelt and tasted just ‘winey’. After many years, I eventually managed to convince them to replace their glasses. My first ‘favourite’ wine – and the first bottle I sold in retail – was a Pinot Noir from Yarra Valley. Fifteen years on, it’s still one of my favourites!
What brought you into the world of wine PR and communication, and what do you enjoy most about working in the industry?
At university, I studied languages and wrote for the student newspaper. I was keen to go down the journalism route, then got side-tracked by wine and worked in stores at Majestic Wine before joining their marketing team, which set me on my wine PR and comms path. Our Aussie producers are excited when they hear I started my wine career in Perth, then I explain it was Perth, Scotland not Perth, Western Australia! I love the mix of people that we work with – winemakers, distributors, retailers, trade across Europe; the wines, tastings and events that we have access to; and the travel opportunities.
You have been with Wine Australia for over three years, what do you think distinguishes Australian wine producers?
I’m coming up to four years with Wine Australia, but there’s still so much to learn about Australian wine! With 65 distinct regions and 100+ grape varieties from Assyrtiko to Zweigelt, there’s always something new to discover. Our producers are an eclectic and innovative bunch. Without laws restricting what can be planted and where, they’re willing to challenge convention, experiment, and do things their own way. It’s all about making great wine that they enjoy drinking – and so do we! I think diversity, creativity and innovation best sum up Aussie wine and our producers.
What are you most excited about in Australian wine today?
Fresh crisp Rieslings, especially from Clare Valley and Great Southern. Elegant sparkling wines from Tasmania and Adelaide Hills. Bright, crunchy reds like Grenache, Dolcetto and Gamay. Seductive Pinot Noir from Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula. I just love the pristine fruit, purity and freshness of these wines.
It’s been a tough year for Australia between the horrendous bush fires earlier this year and now the effects of the pandemic. Are there any initiatives underway in Australia’s wine industry to face both environmental and social challenges in the future?
2020 has been difficult for producers and businesses affected by the bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the Australian wine community is very resilient and they’re well-known for coming together to support each other.
During and after the bushfires, people rallied together to help friends and neighbours, donating labour and equipment, and many fundraising activities took place. Wine Australia has been working closely with state and regional organisations to provide the best support and information to help growers rehabilitate their vineyards. We’ve been sharing resources, running workshops and training regional panels of winemakers. There is also formal support from state and Federal governments through financial assistance and financial and mental health counselling.
COVID-19 has meant that we’ve had to cancel physical events and visits. However, Wine Australia is continuing to provide export approvals and regulation, market insights, and research and development management. Keeping the trade informed and updated on what is going on across markets is a big priority. We’ve also increased our digital and social engagement and are working with retailers to promote Australian wine. Wine Australia has also just launched a second round of Wine Export Grants, with A$1 million available, to help counter the impacts of COVID-19 and drive export growth. Australian wine producers can apply for grants of up to A$25,000 to support their promotional activities in international markets.
Wine Australia has been hosting some online webinars during lockdown. Are there any more events happening this year and early next that members can look forward to?
We expect the COVID challenges to continue over the next 12 months, so we’re planning to run more webinars and virtual tastings. To date, we’ve run four webinars and one virtual tasting, and our next one is Australia’s old vines for German-speaking trade on 12 October. We’re working on more online events for Autumn, so keep an eye on our calendar (https://www.wineaustralia.com/whats-happening/events).
Looking ahead to January 2021, we hope to run our annual Australia Trade Tasting in London. Whilst dependent on circumstances, it is scheduled to take place over two days (25-26 January) and there will also be virtual tastings and webinars throughout the week.
Beyond wine and work, what does the life of Emma Baumann look like? What do you like to do to wind down?
As well as wine, food and travel are big passions (obviously!) but in lockdown it was more the food! I’ve started baking, moving on from banana bread and progressing up to a multi-tiered raspberry ripple cake. Some of the Wine Australia team have got into sourdough breadmaking…I’ve got three starters on the go: Bread Pitt, Angelina Doughlie and Vincent Van Dough. My spinning classes (aka ‘a party on a bike’) are still online and I run five times a week…providing it’s not raining.