Clarke, who ended his tenure in July as announced earlier in the year, came to the organization after working as a corporate lawyer and diplomat. He was at Wine Australia for 15 years - eight as CEO. Over this period, the Australian industry developed an export market in China that was hugely successful until the recent imposition of punishing sanctions. Sales to other markets, such as the US, were less impressive. Critics also questioned whether Australia had focused on promoting its sustainable viticulture as profitably as some other countries and regions. Climate change is an issue for every wine region, but nowhere more so than in Australia where droughts and fires are increasingly frequent.
These last challenges will be particularly relevant to Mr Clarke’s successor. Apart from his most recent role as deputy director, Agriculture and Food, of Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industry Research Organisation (CSIRO), Martin Cole’s resumé as a research scientist includes the US National Center for Food Safety and Technology, leading the development of Australia’s National Food and Nutrition Strategy and Roadmap, the co-authorship of numerous papers and contributions to the UN Food Security Committee, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO).
"We are delighted to welcome Dr Cole as our new CEO after a strong competition to fill the position," said Dr Michele Allan, Wine Australia Chair, in a statement released by the organisation. "We know he will be a great asset to the Australian grape and wine industry."
For his part, Cole stated that he is excited to be joining Wine Australia at this critical time. “Grapes and wine are an important industry for Australia, but one that faces many challenges and opportunities."
The Australian Academy of Technology & Engineering, of which Cole is a fellow, describe him as being known for his “strategic science-business leadership”. In an industry dominated by a small number of giant corporations, these are skills that he is certainly going to need.