Hangers-on eye a fine-wine rally

Hangers-on eye a fine-wine rally
January 20, 2015 admin
In Winews

Brian Croser on his Foggy Hill vineyard at Parawa in South Australia, is excited about what’s happening for the ­industry. Picture: Russell Millard Source: News Corp Australia

AFTER more than a decade in the doldrums, the wine industry is entering a fine wine-led recovery, says pioneer Brian Croser.

Mr Croser, the first to plant vineyards in the Adelaide Hills in 1979 and founder of the premium Petaluma brand before selling to Lion Nathan for $230 million at the height of the wine boom in 2001, is “really excited” about the industry’s future.

“Things are turning around. It’s been longer than I thought,’’ the Australian Grape and Wine Authority director said.

True to form, Mr Croser is moving back to build his Tapanappa brand with the former Petaluma winemaker Con Moshos while others are divesting vineyards and wineries as profitability bites and family businesses hand to the next generation.

There has been an increase in activity in recent months that has included Barossa-based Grant Burge selling wines to Hardy brand owner Accolade and Peter Lehmann Wines’ $57m sale to Casella last month.

Stephen Strachan of winery brokers Gaetjens Langley said ­interest from buyers and investors had increased for “good quality businesses” as a swath of businesses searched for capital, including Geoff Merrill Wines, Schild Estate, Kirrihill Wines, Rymill Coonawarra, Cascabel, Ashton Hills and Main Ridge Estate.

An industry outlook report ­released in October estimated that 80 per cent of Australia’s wine production was unprofitable last year after a decade of falling competitiveness in export markets hit by a high dollar and an oversupply of grapes.

Moves to expand the 12-year-old Tapanappa brand at Picca­dilly comes with the Croser family buying out its French founding partners Bollinger and Cazes, and expect­ations of more vineyards to be planted at the new wine ­region of Parawa, 110km south of Adelaide.

The high-rainfall region produced soft Burgundy-styled pinot noir and cool-climate shiraz and included Tapanappa’s “cult wine” pinot, among wines made from vineyards in the Adelaide Hills and Wrattonbully in the state’s southeast, Mr Croser said.

The industry’s recovery would be spurred on by a falling dollar and demand for premium wine from US customers, which would have a “halo effect ­reflected back” on to Australia’s branded commodity brands.

“I’m really excited about what’s happening for the ­industry,” he said.

“It’s a bad time to get out and a great time to get in. I think, structurally, there’s an under­supply of wine around the globe in terms of fine wine.

“Fine wine is booming in the US … the need in the American market is quite dramatic and that will be Australia’s opportunity.” More opportunities are also opening up in China.