“Sod the wine, I want to suck on the writing. This man White is an instinctive writer, bloody rare to find one who actually pulls it off, as in still gets a meaning across with concision. Sharp arbitrage of speed and risk, closest thing I can think of to Cicero’s ‘motus continuum animi.’

Probably takes a drink or two to connect like that: he literally paints his senses on the page.”

DBC Pierre (Vernon God Little, Ludmila’s Broken English, Lights Out In Wonderland)

Winner: Booker prize; Whitbread prize; Bollinger Wodehouse Everyman prize; James Joyce Award from the Literary & Historical Society of University College Dublin

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28 July 2009

SEPPELTSFIELD FALLS RANDALL'S WAY

WARREN RANDALL

Vales Wildcat Relieves Hacca Of Her After Dinner Headaches
Randall And Co Make Daring Barossa Raid
by PHILIP WHITE

For a sum yet to be disclosed, McLaren Vale grapegrower Warren Randall has bought Janet Holmes á Court’s share of Seppeltsfield, the pride of the Barossa Valley.

After a rather confused series of transactions, Fosters, in 2007, sold Seppeltsfield the brand, the buildings, the Para grenache vineyard, and nine million litres of fortified wine to The Seppeltsfield Estate Trust, whose unitholders included the shareholders of Kilikanoon, the Clare wine brand considered by many to be punching above its weight, and Mrs. Holmes á Court, whose precise business acumen made her seem an unlikely partner. Nathan Waks became Managing Director and Bruce Baudinet Chairman.

Joseph Ernst Seppelt migrated to Australia from Silesia in 1849. The first vintage was in a family dairy, but by 1867, the first of the majestic winery buildings was under construction. Seppelts began laying down their Para port for long-term storage in 1878, and now release a fabulous century-old wine each year.

The vast heritage-listed bluestone complex costs over $400,000 per year to maintain.

Warren Randall and his backers from the Andrew Garrett days, Warren Ward and Andrew Fletcher, are the largest private owners of vineyards at McLaren Vale, owning at least 20% of the district’s vineyards. Randall habitually buys vineyards which become available, provided they have full water licenses. His company is contentiously planning a subdivision of the old Tatachilla Winery in McLaren Vale’s main street; while his vineyards are reasonably responsibly managed environmentally, Randall is not famed for his conservation record.

He was sparkling winemaker at Seppelts Great Western in the 1980s, and then worked with Andrew Garrett, under whose ownership the great old Romalo Cellars opposite Penfolds Grange burned down in the ’nineties. With Garrett colleagues Ward and Fletcher, Randall bought Tinlin’s, the bulk wine retailer, in 1993.

This Seppeltsfield move can be seen as McLaren Vale’s first major push into Barossa territory since Hardy’s bought the Barossa Co-op, and built the controversial Barossa Valley Estate opposite the Seppelt family’s Greco-Roman mausoleum at Seppeltsfield.

There has been intense, almost unseemly vineyard establishment around Seppeltsfield, Marananga and Greenock Creek since Michael and Annabelle Waugh’s Greenock Creek wines began to attract the adulation of Robert Parker Jr. in the ’nineties. Newcomers include Two Hands, Torbreck and Hardy’s/Constellation. Greenock Creek probably has more perfect scores, or very high nineties, from Parker than any other Australian winery. Its vineyards border Seppeltsfield on the north boundary.

The Waughs have almost completed their removal of the industrial pig and chicken farm that dominated the creek immediately north of Seppeltsfield. They bought it last year, and have removed tens of thousands of tonnes of iron and concrete from the site, cleared and rejuvenated the creekline, and will soon establish new vineyards there, opening up a whole new vista for visitors to the historic valley.

Through this acquisition of the famous Para Vineyard at Seppeltsfield, the move also puts Randall in control of a huge volume of old vine grenache, which is on the ascendant as a premium fine wine style, particularly in McLaren Vale, where brands like d’Arenberg and Yangarra are booming.

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