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SYDNEY, Dec 6 AAP

December 06 2012, 7:32PM

When it comes to the quality of Australia's food and wine, the proof appears to be in the tasting.

"Those who have visited (Australia) rank it one of the best in the world, and those who haven't visited have quite a lower expectation," Wine Australia chief executive Andrew Cheesman says.

To tackle that disparity, Tourism Australia and Wine Australia will link up in a partnership to encourage more visitors to Australia, Mr Cheesman announced at the organisation's annual general meeting in Sydney on Thursday.

"If the two sectors can work together to close that gap, there will be significant in-market and export benefits to both industries, and in particular our regional communities."

The announcement comes as a record six million people visited Australia over the past year and the export value of Australian wine increased by four per cent.

"By partnering with Wine Australia, there is a greater opportunity to highlight Australia's world-class wine experiences as a further motivating factor for people to travel to and through Australia," Tourism Australia director Andrew McEvoy said.

Together, wine and tourism contribute about $140 billion to Australia's economy every year, and it's hoped the new partnership can increase this figure.

The campaign, backed by a $2.1 million federal government grant, will be a wine-themed extension of Tourism Australia's "There's nothing like Australia" marketing drive, highlighting the country's lifestyle, natural beauty and wine.

Wine Australia chairman George Wahby said China had emerged as the top market for Australian wine exports, and the average value per litre of Australian bottled imports to China was now higher than that of French wines for the first time.

"We continue to outperform the market in the UK," he added.

The collaboration would be a boon for regional Australia, particularly areas that hadn't benefited from the mining boom, Mr Wahby said.

Australian wine's popularity has grown in the higher-priced brackets in the United States, and interest has been sparked in Scandinavia, Brazil, Russia, and India.

Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson said the partnership would target the Asian market.

"This partnership will raise awareness of the strengths of Australia's wine and tourism industries to growth markets like Asia," Mr Ferguson said.

"This is an exciting opportunity to help strengthen our industries as they compete for market share in an increasingly volatile and competitive global environment."

The campaign is expected to launch next spring.

By Neda Vanovac