CONSTELLATION'S AUSTRALIAN HEADQUARTERS AT OLD REYNELLA. JOHN REYNELL'S PIONEER HOMESTEAD IS AMONG THE TREES, CENTRE. HIS 161 YEAR OLD VINEYARD IS CIRCLED. THIS IS THE SITE OF PIONEER HOMES' PROPOSED 41 BLOCK INTENSIVE RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENT: A PIONEER YUPPIE GHETTO ALREADY IN THE FESTERING STAGE...
Savvy Council Buys Time At Reynella
In Come The Heavy State Ministers
Meanwhile, Up Shit Creek With Karlene ...
by PHILIP WHITE
“The Stony Hill Vineyard is the jewel in Australia's viticultural crown,” reads the text on the back of the bottle. “Importantly, it is the birthplace of one of Australia's most famous wine houses, the oldest in South Australia, Chateau Reynella. Today Chateau Reynella, the home of John Reynell, the man who planted the first commercial vineyard in South Australia and who is recognised by many as the father of the State's industry, is again producing quality wines from Stony Hill Vineyard. Stony Hill is the first commercial vineyard planted by John Reynell on his Reynella Farm back in 1839, only one year after he founded the farm and three years after the proclamation of South Australia.”
But that was then. Here’s the latest about that same priceless vineyard from the same crass mob.
“Constellation Wines Australia (CWAU) has entered into an agreement to sell a block of land on the north west corner of Reynell and Panalatinga Roads, Reynella, opposite the main winery grounds. This site is part of the original 32 hectare area purchased by John Reynell in 1839, around 16 hectares of which was sold by John Reynell in 1854 to create the township of Reynella (now Old Reynella).
“Known as Stony Hill vineyard, this block comprises 1.24 hectares of Cabernet Sauvignon vines planted in 1990 and 0.89 hectares of Cabernet Sauvignon planted in 1968. These 18 to 40 year old vines are affected by leaf-roll virus and another disease known as ‘Eutypa dieback’. These grapevine diseases have compromised grape quality and reduced yields, to the point where many vines do not have bunches even though they have shoots and leaves. These diseases, combined with the inferior soils of the Stony Hill block, have resulted in poor quality grapes, compared with those grown in the vineyards located on the main winery site.
“The high quality of fruit grown on the main winery site has formed the backbone of our awarded Chateau Reynella McLaren Vale range for many years, and includes the highly valued Reynell clone of Cabernet, named in honour of John Reynell, and now widely used throughout Australia.
“The main winery site is an important part of the Reynella township heritage and highly valued for its historical significance to our company, the region and the South Australian wine industry.
“Sale of the Stony Hill block will enable further investment in the ongoing maintenance of Reynell’s heritage buildings and the surrounding landscaped gardens, which remain open to the public for self guided tours during business hours.
“Details on what is proposed for the Stony Hill block will be a matter for the new owner and the Onkaparinga Council following settlement, which is expected to occur in the next few weeks.”
This statement is from Sheralee Davies, Group Public Relations Manager, 0407 004 959.
The Onkaparinga Council, now beset by complaints about this plan, bought itself some time at Thursday night’s meeting by insisting it needed more advice and information from Pioneer Homes, the developer.
Leon “Biggles” Bignell, the ace Labour Member for Mawson, the adjacent parliamentary seat, told DRINKSTER “Whitey, do you realise this is History Week? You know what these people are doing? Like Constellation, Pioneer and the Onkaparinga Council? They’re making history history!”
Biggles has written to Patch Conlon, a dead serious wine lover, and Minister for Transport, Energy and Infrastructure, explaining:
“Last night Onkaparinga Council deferred a decision on the subdivision application pending approval by DTEI of a full range of access from Reynell Road to the new development; i.e. left and right access in and out.
Biggles will meet Planning Minister Paul Holloway on his return from overseas on Tuesday. Holloway promised in November that there would be no more significant housing developments in the Barossa Valley or McLaren Vale. Reynella is within the official McLaren Vale Geographical Indicator.
“Because they’re wine regions, also significant tourism regions, it would not make sense to have urban encroachment to a significant extent into those areas,” he said. “So we’ll avoid those areas and the areas that we’ll be looking at for future expansion are those areas where there’ll be less impact on the important tourism and economic areas ... why would you want to encroach on areas that are important to the economy because of the significant contribution that they make to the state’s economy through the wine industry and the tourism industry? Clearly that would be put at threat if we allowed rampant urban development within those areas."
As for the insinuation that the vineyard has no historical significance because it has been replanted? The poppies of Flanders Fields are sacred and revered, not because they're the same ones that were there a century ago, but because of what happened there. And what happened at this sacred site of Australian viticulture, this site which has been under vine for 161 years, makes it absolutely essential that it should remain a vineyard.
Which leads me to the little matter of Banrock Station. That's the “Help Us Help The Earth – Supporting Global Conservation” Constellation property up the buggered River Murray. Years ago I warned David Woods, CEO of BRL-Hardy before the Constellation invasion, that Banrock was a deadly PR trap unless the vineyard itself was an environmental triumph, and the vineyard most certainly was not, as it was your basic high-tonnage arid land petro-chem sprayed speculation watered by saline water from a River which was obviously not going to last.
Mysteriously, suddenly, Constellation last week “let go” Tony Sharley, the brilliant research scientist and conservationist who managed the swamps below the vineyard.
And, believe me, Karlene needs better advice than any she's had so far.
It's just a pity that Constellation hasn't taken better counsel. The four or five million bucks it might get for this act of barefaced vandalism is peanuts compared to the permanent international disgrace this whole thing has brought down.
Help us help the Earth, indeed. Support global conservation? Yes, please! And Banrock Station? Isn't that up shit creek?
Click on George Grainger Aldridge's cartoon for the ancient history: