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Copyright © Ric Einstein 2009
Your article on the The Pepsi-fication of Penfold not as controversial as I thought you’d be.
On the other hand I agree with almost everything you wrote. Or is it merely nostalgia Ric ? I recall the Hay Days of the Lindeman’s Reserve Selections (often held for 20 years and then re-released), when I fell in love with aged Hunter Semillon and Leo Buring’s Watervale and Clare Rieslings not to mention Leonay. I know, I know, c-through wines. Okay then, the old very plain white label from Mildara, Coonawarra Shiraz, Cabernet and CS Malbec not to mention Rouge Homme and the days that Binders produced some pretty rustic wines that you could float a rock in. (Jeez I’m old, I have kept one bottle of one of the first wines I cellared – a Chateau Tahbilk Cabernet, 1967).
But Ric, the realities of the market have altered. Export is a must – and to export the customer is the supermarket – Tescos, Walmart, Woolworths. It is here that the consolidation will be enforced as these people need to deal with only three soft-drink makers world-wide! In wine, they need to deal with 100,000 different labels from almost as many small makers. As the major movers of wine they have the whip hand. Is it not in response to this imperative that we see Constellation and Fosters doing their thing? Perhaps we are shooting the messenger and that, in say ten years time, we may find that these take-overs actually saved the Australian industry by GAINING marketing clout on a world market.
At the same time the wine fanatic will seek out the unusual, the small artisan maker. In turn this will enable such makers to survive and add interest and breadth to reward our persistence and detective powers. When one door closes another opens. These wines by their very nature, will not be available widely, not really available for export and perhaps therefore less subject to the whims of a marketplace.
When Rothbury was subsumed (I’d had a lot to do with Len and with Murray Tyrrell), I was disappointed for Len but I was not surprised, part of the aim of any takeover is to remove a competing label and expand into that same shelf-space. I agree with your comments that this will happen yet again. It will be interesting to see which labels survive. So your annual pilgrimages to the major wine regions will become even more essential reading – for how else are we to find the artisan makers?
Though I have ranted to you about bean-counters before, they do attempt to ensure that things are profitable – for it is only by being profitable that a business can survive. Their main problem is that they seem incapable of anything but the immediate profit; and the long-term profitability they leave to the whims of the future – myopic planning. Yes, I mourn the passing of the labels I learnt to love – but everything has its day and we need to move on. Aus now produces far more wine than it can drink (as does NZ), so it has to act on a world stage and to do that, needs to have some size. As I said above, perhaps we lose the familiar “boutiqueness” in order to retain the industry as a viable whole.
Please keep contributing.
Copyright 2005 © Murray Patterson