“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)





11 November 2014


Foreboding storm clouds over McLaren Vale ... at least 33 jobs go as Treasury Wine Estates summarily closes its Rosemount winery on McLaren Flat ... photo Philip White

Rosemount loses its home base
33+ jobs go in McLaren Vale;
grapes now go north to Barossa

So the mighty Treasury Wine Estates (TWE) withdraws immediately from winemaking in McLaren Vale? Shuts its Rosemount refinery?

Hardly surprising, given the fact that TWE had been quite deliberately shrinking the role played by its shiny 20,000 tonne capacity Rosemount tankfarm. Over recent years, TWE has been quietly sending fruit instead to local contract processors or to its huge installations at the Wolf Blass Bilyara and Penfolds wineries at Nuriootpa in the Barossa.

What does this mean for McLaren Vale?

Of course it means the loss of a few dozen precious jobs in the Vales. Mates and neighours. Good people with kids and mortgages. Hardworking, respected winemakers and cellarhands who annually clean up a hoard of trophies at the local wine show after making the huge tanksful of fine commercial wine for their owners.

Rosemount winemakers Andrew Locke and Matt Koche celebrate with their Bushing King trophy at the 2012 McLaren Vale Wine Show ... beside winning this top gong, the pair collected another nine trophies at the fixture

Presuming Treasury retains its love of soulful McLaren Vale reds, the Rosemount closure also means a lot more trucks full of grapes thundering through the village to the Southern Expressway/
westernsuburbs/Northern Expressway route to the Barossa, just for starters.

More scary is the thought of them taking the back track through Kangarilla to the treacherous Hills routes and into the Barossa through the sleepy main street of Angaston.

It seems that Treasury hasn't quite begun to grasp the international move to buy local.

It was immediately telling that the Treasury press release called the Rosemount facility Ryecroft, a name hardly uttered since Rosemount founder Bob Oately bought the super-premium but modestly-scaled winery in 1991, rebranded it Rosemount and built a huge tank farm. This propaganda worked: yesterday, nearly every news outlet blindly repeated the press release, and called it the Ryecroft winery.

Bob "Wild Oats" Oatley has been much discussed as a potential buyer of the Rosemount brand ... he invented it, after all, and already made $1.49 billion selling it to Southcorp

Hardly a name on everybody's lips, Ryecroft. Rosemount, meanwhile, hangs in there.

Speaking of names you don't see anymore, Treasury says it will maintain its cellar sales and tasting bench at the old Seaview Winery on Chaffey's Road below Chapel Hill. While it hasn't actually made any wine for years, this currently has Rosemount painted on its facade. I dunno whether you'd call that a fasodomy or a facectomy - the big old joint has been long overdue for some restorative care and cleaning-up. Regardless, its dedicated staff runs tasteful art exhibitions, and it remains the front-of-house for those locally-made Rosemount Show Specials mentioned above.

But the shut-down of the McLaren Flat/Ryecroft/Rosemount processor still delivers another kick in the teeth for your actual Rosemount, which will once again have no real branded home. Rosemount, that great Chardonnay and Shiraz producer which led Australia's export boom in the 'nineties. Rosemount, whose initial super-premium vineyard, Roxburgh, is now another stinking Hunter Valley coal pit. Rosemount, for which Southcorp paid, in 2001, a contentious $1.49 billion before that outfit was swallowed for a disastrous spell by Fosters before becoming Treasury Wine Estates.

At the decaying Seaview Winery, now a tasting room with Rosemount painted on the front: Murray Estuary artist Annabelle Collett with Krista McLelland, Sandra Elms, Bryan Dawe and Tony Kearney at Syria Lost, the challenging photography exhibition mounted by the latter trio ... yes, that's the Dawe & Clarke bloke ... photo Philip White 

Treasury is McLaren Vales' biggest wine grower, with over 1,000 acres under vine. It has about 1,000 extra acres elsewhere on the Fleurieu Peninsula, mainly at Langhorne Creek. Its winemakers also quietly love the quality the best independent growers produce, with folks like the Oliver family of Taranga regularly making the coveted Grange cut after growing grapes on the same Seaview Road property for 174 years.

While locals seemed to like Treasury finally signposting its Vales vineyards as its own property, with handsome Penfolds livery, it didn't make itself any friends when it used creosote-treated trellis posts in its new vineyard on the precious Kurrajong geology at Willunga: the neighbours' vineyards now stink of this toxin. Worse: the offending vineyard sits pretty well on the Willunga Faultline, which directly feeds the main Vales aquifer. And this region justifiably prides itself on its green consciousness and fastidious water conservation.

Rosemount had gradually cut its McLaren Vale processing back to less than  10,000 tonnes in recent years, a bit over half of which came from Langhorne Creek. Apart from what it grows itself in the Vales, about 4,000 tonnes, TWE buys around 4,500 to 5,000 tonnes from other growers. Much of this, especially the super-premium stuff destined for Penfolds, has been trucked directly north for years.

It will be interesting to see how much of the former Rosemount winery's 5000 tonnes of Langhorne Creek fruit will now be vinified at contracting Creek refineries like this one ... it looks pretty much like the defunct Rosemount McLaren Flat one, after all
Peter Taylor, TWE's Director of Wine Production for Australia and New Zealand said "this decision was not made lightly ... [It] was an extremely difficult one and is certainly not a reflection on the experience or capability of the team working there.

"This is a tough but necessary action that TWE has to take. We have several wineries within our production footprint and need to ensure that they operate at the highest possible capacity to maximise the efficiencies of our network. Unfortunately Ryecroft has been operating at around half its capacity for several years now, and it is simply not sustainable for this to continue,” he said, almost as if that gradual cutback had happened by accident.

"Rosemount wines previously made at Ryecroft will continue to source their fruit from McLaren Vale and surrounding regions; the only change is the location where the wine will be made."

TWE is of course a major fee-paying constituent of McLaren Vale Grape, Wine and Tourism. Marc Allgrove, consultant CEO of that body said: 

"Today's decision by Treasury Wine Estates to close its local production facilities is a commercial one made by a commercial enterprise operating in very difficult market conditions. It is clearly unwelcome news for the McLaren Vale community and our thoughts are with those impacted by the decision.

"Treasury Wine Estates through its Rosemount Estate brand, local land holdings and regional grower base is a key member of the community, and the Association looks forward to its ongoing commitment to McLaren Vale's efforts to promote its wine, food, people and destination."

Perhaps the most significant future possibility involves Coles and Woolworths both searching for the definitive generic national wine brand, and a convenient place to process such fruit. This is conjecture. But Woolies already owns the region's biggest contract bottling line, Vinpac, beside the Woodstock winery in Douglas Gully, just a few minutes from the former Rosemount. It has taken an increasing hold over the Barossa, buying its own vineyards there and planning to extend its big Chateau Dorrien winery at Tanunda. A few years back it bid for the flash new Barossa Valley Estates winery at Marananga/Seppeltsfield, but failed. It has recently bought the block adjacent to Chateau Dorrien for expansion space.

While it owns the McLaren Vale Vinpac, Woolies does not own the land there.

If however it were to buy the Ryecroft/Rosemount facility, with its land, Woolies would have ample space to relocate the bottling hall and purchase cheaply the little-known Rycroft brand, with its history, which is older than Rosemount's.

McLaren Vale insiders have enjoyed joking that the biggest difference between the Vales and the Barossa is simple: the Barossa is Woolies country; McLaren Vale was not. They may soon be forced to eat those words.

Or drink them, whether they bear the Rosemount tag or not. As the Rosemount winery is now shut, its value has fallen. But in their press statements, the TWE propagandists may have quietly added a little value to the name Ryecroft. They have, in a strange manner, relaunched it.


Anonymous said...

I think its just corporate bullshit that the friday before they announce the closure, TWE seeks approval from their shareholders to grant CEO 764000 shares for free, today equivalent to more than $3million, if he increases performance. Im not saying that rosemount shouldnt be shut, i understand its a competitive market where economies of scale for a producer like TWE are key, but dont announce you want to give 1 person a bonus of 3 and a half mil for increasing performance and then shut down a winery and put 33 people out of work.

Anonymous said...

Allgrove must be shitting over loss lof income to his association, which is addicted to the Big Blokes money. His comment is almost word perfect for what Dudley brown wrote way back when he was chairman and you were trying to stop Constellation Hardys ripping out the John Reynell vineyard. I could remember something along the same non-committal lines. Now I found it, I quote chairman Dudley from your blog:

“as our Association represents the interests of multiple industries, we have long had a policy of not commenting on commercial matters of members or disputes between industry groups except to the extent that they violate the law.

“Constellation’s forerunner company, Hardy’s, has been a member of our association in good standing since the inception of our forerunner bodies.

“We have and continue to actively lobby on matters of urban encroachment in our region (including the recent Glenthorne Farm matter) where and when we can.”

I still think Contellation broke the law by getting govt to overhtrow the heritage listing by devious means so they could pull it out and then pull themselves out.

Toothless Tiger, like every bullshit wine business organization!

Anonymous said...

So Whitey if you're wrong and Treasury simply subdivides that land and jams in a suburb you'd be wrong if you expect the association to oppose it. Keep it up regardless Cobber!


Anonymous said...

Every time I call the associastion I end up speaking to someone different because the person I spoke to last time has left. Are all the staff on short-term contracts or something?

Anonymous said...

McLaren Vale & Fleurieu Visitor Information Centre awarded Gold at SA Tourism Awards 2014

McLaren Vale named South Australia's best wine region in the Adelaide Advertiser

Mentions of either of these things by the association anywhere: none

Anonymous said...

RE: MVGWTA staff turnover.

If you are good enough to know what you are doing, why would you work there?

And if you are incompetent eventually you will be pushed out to pasture.