Who has the bargaining power?

WHILE THE grape and wine supply chain waits for positive export figures to translate into a real business boost, initial reports of suggest the grape price per tonne is hovering between $370 and $400 throughout the inland regions (Murray Darling, Riverina and Riverland). This represents a slight jump up from last year’s average of about $320 a tonne; offering hope of a recovery to good returns for both grapegrowers and wineries. Daniel Whyntie reports.

Senator Nick Xenophon said the Wine Industry Code of Conduct has “less bite than a toothless Chihuahua”.

Grapegrowers spend the vast majority of their annual expenses before vintage – in fact before the December 15 date which the Australian Wine Industry Code of Conduct sets out for price notifications. And some growers remain frustrated by a either a lack of information or the restrictive nature of their contract which has last years’ low price rolling across to 2017. There were even rumours of a ‘tractor blockade’ and grower boycotts before this year’s vintage began.

Last year the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) declared that contracting practices were the most significant issue affecting viticulture in a report into the sector.
“The risk sharing weighs strongly against the growers; they find it difficult to know what price they will receive and some are only paid after delivery. It’s not the equitable sharing of risk we’d like to see in good contracting practices,” said Mick Keogh, ACCC commissioner. Continue reading

Young gun: Michael Downer

Michael Downer is the third generation of his family to work the Murdoch Hill farm, in the Adelaide Hills, but during his time within the business he has changed the focus for the family. Daniel Whyntie reports.

The family property used to be as much about cattle as it was focussed on growing vines, but Michael Downer’s Artisan Series has built on the reputation of the Murdoch Hill wines and marked a turning point in the farming business.
Downer has applied the lessons learnt from his travels and set out to create wines that would set him apart; wines that have earned him the Young Gun Of Wine ‘winemakers’ choice’ award two years running.  Continue reading

Australian wine exports: Key market snapshots

Wine Australia’s four ‘heads of market’s’ recently joined forces to present a market overview for a Wine Communicators of Australia webinar late in 2016. They examined the issues, risks and opportunities for Australia’s major export markets. Daniel Whyntie sat in to bring you the highlights of their presentations.

UK: Stop the world I want to get off

Laura Jewell MW Head of Market Europe, Middle East and Africa

Looking back across recent history, the UK market has been pretty stable – recent declines had slowed and there was growth in the retail sector and in sparkling. However, the impacts of ‘Brexit’ have meant the outlook seems to change on a daily basis. The vote to leave was unexpected and it has become very clear the UK Government had not actually planned for this outcome. Continue reading

Fortified’s fresh look

ST LEONARDS VINEYARD, an historic winery in the Rutherglen wine region, has added some colour and intrigue to its range of compelling fortified wines with the release of three HIP SIP wines.

The first wine to launch was the Tawny in April 2016 and two more wines have recently been added to the range – HIP SIP Muscat and HIP SIP Muscadelle.

Georgie James Photography

“HIP SIP was designed to inspire consumers in a creative way on the delights of fortified wine,” said Angela Brown, St Leonards Vineyard sales and marketing director.
“Providing suggestions of how and when to enjoy fortified wine has engaged our consumers.
“The range provides the ability to enjoy the wine in a creative way.” Continue reading

International bulk wine insight

The Grapegrower & Winemaker recently caught up with Denys Hornabrook, the co-founder of VINEX, the bulk wine trading exchange to discuss its development and gain an update on the current market outlook.

Q: You have recently been quoted as saying global prices are expected to rise over the next 12 months, with the precarious 2016 vintage threatening global supplies. What are the factors contributing to your view?
Denys Hornabrook: We are entering a really interesting phase where the pendulum is moving toward demand and applying price pressure. There’s now an increasing likelihood there’ll be a further tightening of global supply. Look at the constraints on what was produced in 2016. South Africa has had its worst vintage in four years, Chile its worst in five and Argentina its worst in 10. But that’s now being compounded by the US having average yields and large yield deficits throughout France and Italy, and especially Spain. Our VINEX Global Price Index which monitors the five major varieties produced around the world shows prices have already increased 21.5% since January. Sauvignon Blanc (heavily weighted by NZ) is the only variety that hasn’t increased in price.

Q: What signs are you seeing of the market responding to this potential reduced supply?
We’ve seen domestic and international buyer registrations increase to access the exchange and then sourcing listings being added to secure additional current vintage supply. Also, several pre-harvest forward contracts have been traded with buyers wanting to hedge some of their 2017 requirement. So there’s a growing sense of a shortage, and buyers’ in-tune with the market are beginning to take early longer-term positions. Continue reading

Yalumba launches $350 ‘super claret’

Australia’s oldest family owned winery, Yalumba, is set to launch a $350 Cabernet Shiraz blend. The Caley, a blend featuring both Coonawarra and Barossa fruit, honours Fred Caley Smith, the grandson of Yalumba’s founder Samuel Smith; and horticulturist who had a profound impact on the development of Yalumba’s orchards and vineyards.


“The Caley is the pinnacle of a long winemaking journey seeking excellence – a ‘super-claret’ that rightfully honours one of Yalumba’s most adventurous sons,” vigneron Robert Hill-Smith said.
“It is the result of an unwavering commitment by Yalumba to Australia’s own unique red wine style – Cabernet and Shiraz – from the Galway Clarets of the 1940s, through the Signature and FDR 1A that started in the 60s and 70s and The Reserve that was created in the 1990s.
“I see it as a symbol of Yalumba’s perseverance and patience – an acknowledgment of the importance of time in crafting great wine.” Continue reading

Sam Berketa: Art vs Science

A winemaker needs to be an entrepreneur, an innovator, a sales rep and a designer. Sam Berketa was born for the role, he has recently taken over the reins at Alpha Box & Dice in McLaren Vale. Balancing the logical and the creative Sam is keen to bring the techniques and collaborative ethos back home to the Vale. Daniel Whyntie reports.

TRANSFERRING OUT of a Bachelor of Science in Molecular and Drug Design, Berketa felt his creative drives pulling him toward a career in the Visual Arts, lucky for wine lovers he found another way to express himself.
“I wasn’t really enjoying the career path that was leading me down, so I actually considered chasing a degree in a completely opposite direction,” Berketa said. “However, I ended up splitting the difference and choose winemaking, as I saw it as being a marriage of art and science my two academic passions. Since walking into class on that first day of winemaking, I haven’t looked back.”
sam-berketaIt is the contrasts between these two ways of seeing the world; the analytic and logical left and the creative right hemisphere of the brain; that makes Berketa a unique winemaker despite his relative lack of experience.
“I love art and all things creative and I include wine in the category of art, most of the time. So, I like to think I have some sort of artistic talent. Brewing has being my creative outlet as well for the last couple of years.” Continue reading

On an elevated stage: The Granite Belt

Nathan Gogoll spent a couple days in the Granite Belt late last year. He found a vibrant wine industry, lots of interesting projects and plenty of characters. The rest of the Australian grape and wine community should take note.

THERE ARE SOME MISCONCEPTIONS about the Granite Belt that need to be addressed. They don’t grow pineapples and bananas at the end of the vine rows. Far from it. In fact, the region is well known for its apple, vegetable and stone fruit crops.
p31-35-granite-belt-just-redIt’s probably a hot and humid region. Actually, the Granite Belt is the coldest region in Queensland, and the locals refer to winter as ‘brass monkey’ season*. It doesn’t get to wear an official ‘cool climate’ tag as the MJT is 21.5°C (Mean January Temperature) which is on par with the Barossa and the heat degree days number is about the same as McLaren Vale. However, there are some vineyards planted at more than 1000m elevation. Continue reading

Stand out like a purple cow

Ashley Ratcliff, Ricca Terra Farms general manager, explores the value of branding for grapegrowers and vineyard businesses.

IN THE BOOK The Purple Cow, author Seth Godin refers to his first visit to Europe with his family. He wrote of how beautiful the herds of brown cows were grazing in the countryside as he drove along the highway. Yet, after only a short time, passing herd-after-herd of brown cows, he made a personal observation – the cows were becoming very boring and had very quickly lost their unique attraction. Godin states, “wouldn’t it be great to see a purple cow”. Now that would be exciting.


“The end game is not about beating a competitor, or winning a sale. The end game is to earn profit through establishing brand loyalty.”
The ‘brown cow’ paradox is present in most industries. One of the attractions of wine to the end consumer is the romance and uniqueness of where the grapes are grown that make the wine, the vineyard.
Successful wine company marketers have been able to etch an image in the consumers’ mind of grapes being hand harvested by the farmer’s weathered hands and then delivering his/her grapes to the winery in an old Bedford truck where the grapes are forked off and pressed in an old wooden basket press. Continue reading

London calling for the Australian Women in Wine Awards


The Australian Women in Wine Awards will partner with Wine Australia to take the 2017 awards to a new ‘Women in Wine’ event set to be held in London in September.


THE ADVISORY BOARD of the Australian Women in Wine Awards (AWIWA) has confirmed the partnership will result in an exciting new direction for the awards this year.
A tasting event at Australia House London will take place on Tuesday 26 September to demonstrate the quality and diversity of Australian wines made by female winemakers and wine brands owned by women.

As part of the tasting the announcement of the winners of the 2017 Australian Women in Wine Awards will take place – the first time these awards will have been announced outside Australia. Jane Thomson, founder of the awards, will fly to London to announce the winners and will host this part of the event.
“This is an exciting development for the Australian Women in Wine Awards,” Thomson siad. “Showcasing our women in wine on such an important international stage is not only good for the advancement of gender equality, it’s good for the entire Australian wine community.” Continue reading