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By Tania Phillips

A DELEGATION of leading wine sommeliers and media representatives from Japan has further enhanced the Granite Belt’s growing international reputation as one of Australia’s elite wine destinations.
Organised by five-star Queensland winery Sirromet Wines in collaboration with Winetree, a member of the Tokyo-based Global Sky Group, the nearly week-long tour encompassed visits to Sirromet’s Seven Scenes, St Judes and Night Sky Vineyards, along with its state-of-the-art flagship winery at Mount Cotton.
The Granite Belt tour also included visits to local winemakers Ballandean Estate, Golden Grove, Symphony Hill and Tobin Wines, highlighting the range of quality wines currently being produced in the south-west Queensland premier wine region.
The seven-member Japanese delegation was accompanied by Winetree’s Miyako Akiyama and included sommeliers Mr Kenichi Tsuji of Kanazawa’s famous wine bar “Chateau Chinnon,” Mr Tsuyoshi Hanashima of Ishikawa Prefecture’s luxury Kagaya ryokan hotel and Mr Tetsuya Ebisawa of Tokyo restaurant “Manuel”.
They were joined by leading wine writer Ms Rika Ogura and Mr Minoru Numata, an adviser to the Japan Sommelier Association and an “A+ Specialist Educator” for Wine Australia.
Global Sky Managing Director, Ko Nagata said the visit was an important step in boosting Japanese interest in Queensland wine, capitalising on the recent lowering of trade barriers under the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement (JAEPA).
“Winetree is determined to assist the growth of premium Australian wines in Japan, Asia’s second-largest wine market, in partnership with leading wine makers such as Sirromet,” Mr Nagata said.
“With a sophisticated and expanding customer base, Japan offers an enormous opportunity for Australian wine, which thanks to JAEPA can now compete on a level playing field with its New World rivals.”
Winetree’s efforts to promote Australian wines have been further boosted by the opening of two Australia-themed restaurants and bars in Tokyo, “Terra Australis” and “Terra Azabu-juban” earlier this year.
They are located in the Japanese capital’s upmarket districts of Sendagaya and Azabu-juban respectively.
The Winetree group also supported various promotions in Japan by Austrade, Tourism Australia, Trade and Investment Queensland and Wine Australia, helped by Japanese celebrities including the legendary ‘Iron Chef French’ Hiroyuki Sakai.
Australia’s wine exports to Japan have shown significant growth since last year’s introduction of JAEPA, which eliminated Japan’s previous tariff on Australian bulk wine shipments and is phasing out tariffs on bottled and sparkling wine.
Australia’s wine exports to Japan increased by four per cent to total $45 million in the year to June 2016, with a 24 per cent rise in premium wine sales to Australia’s ninth-largest wine market by volume, according to Wine Australia.
“Sirromet’s focus is on developing premium wines and we are continuously looking for ways to push the boundaries and remain industry leaders,” Sirromet’s sales and marketing director Rod Hill said.
“We are proud to be part of the growth of the Granite Belt, and by inviting international visitors to our region we are helping the world wake up to the quality of Queensland wine.”

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