Wineries make merrier

By Philip Arlidge

Wine Winery

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Tags: Wine. Wineries. Queensland Tourist Destinations


I am probably going into the realms of being a trifle political here but sometimes it is necessary to vent one’s concerns with the current state of the local liquor industry, as indirectly it affects what you drink and the price you, the consumer, pays for it and it could also indirectly influence decisions on other commodities we spend our dollars on in the future.

When I started in the industry and even right up to recent times all liquor retailers purchased their wines from one of a number of sources, a wholesaler which carried a vast selection of wines from a lot of suppliers, through an agent who represented a number of suppliers and directly from the producer.

This system still operates for smaller independent liquor outlets but recently Woolworths purchased a couple of wineries through their Pinnacle Drinks operation, The Dorrien Estate in The Barossa and The Isabel Vineyard in New Zealand. So what you might ask, but Woolworths may see the success of growing the grapes, making the wine, then selling it exclusively through their outlets of BWS, Dan Murphy’s, Woolworths Liquor, Langton’s and Cellarmaster with a profit margin of around 60% or more as an opportunity to buy cattle farms, dairies, orchards and produce farms as a way to cut out the grower/ producer and just supply themselves.

Add to this that Woolworths are already controlling most of the poker machines in Australia through their hotels and are supported by The Queensland State Government to some degree who encourage a lack of competition in not allowing liquor store licences without buying a hotel and you have a recipe for unfair trading.

In Queensland you have to own a hotel to operate four take away bottle shops, this was brought in a number of years ago when some politicians who owned hotels and liquor stores never thought that Woolworths and Coles would ever buy a hotel and this would keep them out of Queensland.

However they were wrong, Woolworths and Coles did buy the hotels, which is why nearly all the liquor stores in Queensland, and as is the case of Bribie are branded BWS or Liquorland and the rest are owned by wealthy families such as Comisky or consortiums that trade under the Bottlemart and Cellarbrations banners. Aldi has just been awarded the title of Australian Liquor Retailer of the year, how many of their stores sell liquor here in Queensland, absolutely none because they are not going to buy a hotel!

The reason we should be concerned is that it is not beyond the realms of possibility that one day in the future some large overseas concern wishing to establish their business here in Australia could buy Woolworths or Coles and then something would certainly hit the fan! Until about twenty years or so ago cleanskin wines were a way that smaller wineries could clear remaining batches of wines out of their cellar without going to the expense of printing new labels for a short run, most of this wine was sold at cellar door often at a greatly reduced price and often the wine was high quality premium wine.

Some found its way into a couple of enterprising liquor stores who would advertise the wine under the real name without a label at the reduced price and bargains were had. Someone saw an opportunity to create a market for wines without labels so a massive cleanskin market was born at the same time that wine casks were, under pressure from anti-drink groups, seen as unhealthy and were trying to pressure governments to introduce a volume tax to push up the price and reduce their sale.

Most of the current stock of clean skin wines are pretty well the wines that would have filled those casks and it is very unusual to find any premium wines filling these labels as was once the case and now cleanskins actually have a plain label anyway, better to spend another couple of dollars and look for some of the specials around.

Lindeman’s Bin 61 Chardonnay was on offer this month through Liquorland at $5.00 which is half price so why buy cleanskins? On Thursday 22nd February the Beefsteak and Burgundy Club in cahoots with the Pacific Harbour Golf Resort held our bi-monthly dinner and it was the most successful yet. Over forty guests enjoyed outstanding food accompanied by some excellent wines.

With the canapés, we served The Chandon Brut Rose, a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir which was a great way to start the evening. Chandon Wines owe their success to Champagne House Moet and Chandon and the Chandon Brand is available in different countries such as Argentina, The Napa Valley in America and The Yarra Valley here in Australia where local grape varieties are crafted into fine sparkling wines following the Champagne making methods.

With an entrée of sesame crusted Saku tuna tataki, wasabi aioli and pickled wakame we served the Jacobs Creek” Le Petit” Rose, a blend of Pinot Noir, Grenache and Mataro grapes, and The Little Yering Pinot Noir. The Jacobs Creek Rose surprised everyone, including myself, with its fresh dry style and I suggest anyone considering trying a Rose to go out and get a bottle, I think you will be very impressed as we all were. The Little Yering Pinot from The Yarra Valley also matched the food very well offering a completely different style to the Rose.

This meant the first three wines paid homage to the Pinot Noir Grape showing just how versatile it is. The main course of 100 days aged Darling Downs beef tenderloin wrapped in prosciutto, truffle potato croquette, asparagus and red wine jus needed a serious red wine to match and the two we chose didn’t let the team down. The Red Knot “ Classified” Shiraz (exclusive to Dan Murphy’s) and The St. Hugo Coonawarra 2013 vintage Cabernet Sauvignon carried out the task with gusto.

Shingleback makes the Red Knot Shiraz in Mclaren Vale and are one of the countries great red winemakers but have unfortunately linked their products pretty well exclusively to Woolworths and Coles. The stand out performer of the night was The St. Hugo which always showcases The Coonawarra and this wine with the aromas of blackcurrants and mint went head to head with the main course superbly.

The dessert of deconstructed lime meringue pie consisting of blueberries, raspberries and shaved white chocolate in a sort of Eton Mess style was accompanied by The Brown Bros. Sparkling Rosa Moscato made with Moscato and Cienna grapes. I thought the combination of a fruit dessert and fruity wine would match well and it proved an outstanding way to almost finish the night and again if you enjoy a fruitier style of wine give this a go, a very well made wine, another surprise to me!

As an indulgence, we finished the night with the multi-award-winning Buller Fine Old Muscat, a steal at $20 a bottle from Dan Murphy’s. Fortifies wine just doesn’t come any better than this please do yourselves and your taste buds a favour and get a bottle, it is quite stunning, we make some of the finest fortified wines in the world but they seem to be out of fashion at the moment.

Our next dinner will be in April. Cheers, Philip Arlidge [email protected] From humourist Robert Benchley Drinking makes such fools of people, and people are such fools, to begin with, that it is compounding the felony!


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A highly successful sales and leadership career working in a number of different and very competitive industries. Engaging with decision makers at all levels in business and government. Three decades employed by corporations, SME businesses in senior roles and almost twelve years operating as a freelance contractor has equipped me well for all aspects of business. Whether leading and mentoring sales teams, or in a direct sales role I enjoy the challenge to meet and exceed expectations. Making a real and tangible difference in either a team environment or as an individual is an important personal goal I have consistently achieved throughout my career. In all of my business and personal dealings over the years there is one issue that stands out above all others - communication. Excellent communication skills creates trust, helps with mutually beneficial outcomes and above all cements long lasting positive relationships. I strive everyday to communicate effectively with the people I encounter.