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Exclusive: Australia’s Peter Lehmann Launches Major Portfolio Overhaul

March 6, 2012

Barossa, Australia-based Peter Lehmann Wines (PLW), part of the Hess Family Estates portfolio in the U.S., is launching a major overhaul that includes a realignment of its product tiers, new packaging and new wine styles.

“Our first goal was to add new wines and new styles to keep the Peter Lehmann brand relevant,” says Peter Lehmann general manager Jeff Bond. “Second, we’ve restructured the brand family into tiers that are more defined by customer and by channel. And third, we’ve enhanced the packaging to deliver a stronger visual link across the entire portfolio.”

Key to that enhanced packaging is Peter Lehmann himself, as he’s now the centerpiece of the brand’s imagery. His silhouette will now be featured on all labels across the portfolio. “The affection for Peter Lehmann in Australia perhaps isn’t well known in the U.S. market, but this new packaging will provide an opportunity for us to share that story.” Lehmann is renowned for having built strong and supportive relationships with Barossa growers when he launched his winery in 1982—a difficult economic period for many vintners there. The signature Lehmann phrase “My word is my bond” will appear on many of the labels as well as sell sheets, shipping cartons and other materials.

As for the restructuring, the Peter Lehmann portfolio will now be divided into four tiers in the U.S. market, in ascending price order: Art Series, Portrait, Masters and Stonewell.

The accessibly-priced Art Series tier (averaging $12.99 but often seen at $10.99) includes a Riesling, Semillon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Moscato, Rosé, Shiraz Grenache, Cabernet Merlot, Shiraz Cabernet, Barossa Blonde and Semillon Chardonnay. Primary trade channels will be retail and grocery chains as well as national accounts. “The Art Series wines are all about freshness, youth and flavor,” says Bond. “They’re lighter in style and in some cases also in alcohol. They’re more aromatic and geared toward the millennial and female consumer. And while many of these wines remain Barossa-sourced, we’re also looking to regions such as the Adelaide Hills. That has enabled the introduction of consumer-friendly wines like Moscato, Pinot Grigio and Semillon Blanc— all segments showing strong growth.”

New products for the U.S. market in the Art Series are the Pinot Grigio, Moscato, Shiraz Grenache and Shiraz Cabernet. Some of the other products within this tier aren’t yet on the market—including Barossa Blonde, Semillon Blanc and Semillon Chardonnay—but will be in the future. The other Art Series labels have all been on the market for some time.

Peter Lehmann’s next level up the pricing ladder is its premium Portrait tier ($16.99 line priced), which includes a Barossa Valley Shiraz, Barossa Cabernet Sauvignon, Eden Valley Riesling and Barossa Semillon. “The Portrait wines, which will remain 100% Barossa-based, represent the original Peter Lehmann offerings,” Bond says. “Traditional varietals, coupled with modern winemaking, provide an illustration of what the Barossa is to us—and why it’s such an important part of Australian winemaking.” All channels, including fine wine retail and on-premise, will be targeted with this tier.

The ultra-premium Masters offers labels including 8 Songs Shiraz ($38.99), Mentor Cabernet ($38.99), Muscat ($24.99) and Botrytis Semillon ($16.99). “The Masters wines represent the finest parcels blended from the best vineyards the Barossa can offer,” says Bond. “They also allow us to share these brand stories.” The target for the Masters tier is on-premise and fine wine retail.

The highest tier, Stonewell, comprises the Stonewell label alone ($95)—Peter Lehmann’s top-shelf Barossa Shiraz. Like the Masters tier, Stonewell also is aimed at the on-premise and fine wine retail channels.

Separate from these four tiers are two important Peter Lehmann Brands—Clancy’s ($16.99) and Layers ($16.99)—which have been grouped into the company’s innovation/experimentation tier. Clancy’s is in fact very well established, while Layers is a relatively new concept. Layers has red and white versions. The red typically blends Shiraz, Mourvedre, Tempranillo, Grenache and Carignane, while the white includes Semillon, Muscat, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay. Both Clancy’s and Layers have received separate packaging revamps.

Another Peter Lehmann product tier, Futures, consisting of a Barossa Shiraz, Cabernet and Shiraz Muscadelle, isn’t currently being sold in the U.S. market. “The Futures tier is a toast to the faith of friends and family who believed in our dream from the start. The name is taken from the first wine we ever sold, which was called The Futures. Back then, it was sold to friends and family on a two-year futures arrangement.”

Overall, Bond remains bullish on prospects for traditional Australian varietals. “Shiraz is synonymous with Australia, and although it has declined recently, we still believe in its ability to deliver styles that consumers are seeking,” he says. “We also see big opportunities for our new aromatic whites, with Moscato, Pinot Grigio and Semillon Blanc delivering consumer-friendly wines.”

Bond predicts that Australia will bounce back from its current malaise. “A number of factors have undermined the category, including a strong Australian dollar,” he says. “That’s been particularly noticeable for high-end niche producers where sales have declined significantly. But producers who can tough it out will be well positioned as currency and fashion cycles turn. In the meantime, all Australian wine producers must help ensure that the category isn’t pigeonholed as a producer of one style or one varietal—but rather a diverse player that can respond to consumer desires.”

Distributor presentations of the new-look Peter Lehmann wines have been underway for several weeks, and some items such as Clancy’s and the Portrait Shiraz are now in the market. The new packaging will continue rolling out as the vintages change.

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