I would be very interested to hear thoughts on where you think the Aussie wine industry is going? Particularly the foreseeable future. Personally, I feel the light is getting brighter each day? I have started to see dedicated sections back in fine wine retail, Aussie sections/pages on wine lists, etc...
I've been in wine retail for about six years - and when I first started the attitudes toward Australian wines were pretty damn dismissive. Very few guests at the shops wanted to have anything to do with them - I think the blanket consensus was that Australian wine = Yellow Tail = $7 saturated fruit bomb. But I think it is getting better all the time, or at least what is consistently good is getting noticed. The 2008 Penfolds Grange Shiraz merited 100 points RP, for what that is worth, and I personally love Mollydooker wines - of course they are fruit forward but they're also structured and lovely. What is funny is that a very comprehensive wine shop I worked for in LA had a solid Australian section - and the company I work for now, headed by a Master Sommelier, has not a single Australian wine in either of our two locations. As with anything, there seem to be two schools of thought - "Go Australia go! I'm loving it!" or "Aw, Australia making wine...that's precious." Interestingly enough, you're not the only one pondering this question - here's a poll from Wine Spectator if you care to weigh in.
I also work in wine retail, and Australia has had a lot of ups and downs in the last 6-7 years that I have been working. When I first started, Australia was pretty near the top of everyone's go-to wine chart. Then, it was as if Australia had a "Sideways" moment. Suddenly, customers who had been seeking higher-end Aussie wines were only interested in the California giants cranking out similarly-styled products. There was a while where our local distributors were offering killer wines and deep discounts to try and move them out the door: good for the consumer, but reinforcing that image of value-driven Australia. Then, the stock market tanked and people were only interested in the $7-10 price range for anything, who cared where it came from. Things are looking up, little by little, but I don't find too many people seeking out Aussie wines outside of Lindeman's and Penfold's introductory lines. It's definitely a hand-sell, which I do with gusto, whether Cabernet, Shiraz, Spanish- and Italian-influenced blends, the occasional Riesling, Vermentino, or something off-the-wall. We do have a dedicated Australian section, but frankly, I try to double place anything outside of Shiraz (i.e. put a Cabernet in both Australia and our domestic Cabernet section). They always do much better when placed with domestic wines. I must confess that while I like a lot of Australian wines, I just don't really go there immediately when someone wants a recommendation for a good Cabernet, Grenache, etc. I only immediately think in that direction when someone asks for a Shiraz, which is relatively frequent during the winter months. White wines are almost completely off the map, and I rarely see sales reps pushing them at all. I think that the key will be in pushing "regionality" and perhaps the parallels between our two nations ( i.e. ethnic diversity, pioneering and exploration history, cool climate, elegant wine styles) Customers seem to respond to learning about the history of wine-producing areas, so that is always a good avenue to explore. Hope that that was helpful!