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392 - Leadership Drought: A Call to Wine Australia Amid Small And Family Winery Despair

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Whether you drink a little bit of South Australian wine, or a lot, your decisions about what you buy and where you buy it from, make a big difference. We sit with three passionate people from the wine industry, today, and they have some tales of woe to share, some stories about labour of love they all carry out, and some messages to those of us who’d like to see a thriving sector of small, family-run wineries who bring texture and body to the glass and to many circles of the economy throughout our state.

There is no SA Drink Of The Week this week. Well, actually, there are four, but they are woven through the episode.

And in the Musical Pilgrimage, we feature a new song from Suedan, that is slightly related to our theme: Whiskey Did It.

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Running Sheet: Leadership Drought: A Call to Wine Australia Amid Small And Family Winery Despair00:00:00 Intro


00:00:00 SA Drink Of The Week

Not one but four SA Drinks Of The Week this week. They are interwoven throughout the episode. If you would like to hear the tasting notes, you’ll find them here:

00:09:08 – Paulmara Estates 2021 “The Marriage” Cabernet Shiraz

00:47:27 – Ben Murray Wines 2021 Barossa Valley Shiraz

01:18:15 – Flinders Run 2021 Baroota Creek Cabernet Sauvignon

01:49:05 – Paulmara Estates 2021 ARETÎ

00:03:19 Paul Georgiadis, Emanuel Skorpos, Dan Eggleton

It’s a tough gig, being at the helm of a family-owned winery in Australia in 2024. China’s tariffs on Australian wine bit hard, causing a glut in supply, while the multinationals like Coles and Woolworths used their clout to create “fake” boutique wines that “magically” got shelf space and retailer support from, well, Coles and Woolworths. Meanwhile, our 2500 wineries and grape growers have been contributing to the coffers of Wine Australia in the hope that its role of supporting and regulating the Australian grape and wine industry would mean that someone was looking out for them and not ignoring the big bad wolves who are plundering the sector every day. But, if you’re surviving in this industry, maybe that’s enough because as one of the guests who couldn’t make it today was quoted as saying on the ABC recently, you don’t get into the wine industry to make money, you do it because you love it!

Who are our guests? We have Paul Georgiadis who, among other things, is the founder and owner of Paulmara Estates, along with his wife, Mara. We’re recording at Paulmara in Marananga today. We also have the man who suggested we hold this discussion, Emanuel Skorpos, the Principal Vintner at Flinders Run in the Southern Flinders, and Dan Eggleton, the cofounder and winemaker at Ben Murray Wines and Principal and Founder of Vinous Consulting.

I like naming elephants in rooms, so my first reflection is that we’re all blokes, sitting around this table. We haven’t excluded women, it’s more that Emanuel is directly connected to you all and this gathering developed organically from there. Had we more microphones, I would have arranged for Jane Richards to join us from Eight At The Gate Wines in Wrattonbully – she is an absolute dynamo – and I’m sure you all work with women in different roles. Can we acknowledge some before we move on?

The key theme of our discussion is that “mum and dad” wineries make up the bulk of those 2500 wineries in Australia, and it always hurts a bit when we see our Premier hobnobbing at a new Wolf Blass cellar door to celebrate government support for a business you’d think was hardly in need of extra help. Mind you, I did mention this to a winemaker friend of mine, who is also part of a family-run winery, and he confessed that he “gets it” because the levies that fund Wine Australia are based on volume and the big end of town contributes more than we do. Can we start here? What are the big pain points for family wineries right now, and where does the support of Wine Australia hit and miss, in your opinions?

Summarising the role of Wine Australia, goes like this. It’s role is to support and regulate the Australian grape and wine industry with its primary functions being Research and Development (R&D) (and sharing and commercialising results of that research), Marketing and Promotion to boost consumption of grape products here and overseas, Regulation and Compliance, especially when exporting, and User Pays activities. But I note this: Wine Australia operates under a Statutory Funding Agreement with the Australian Government, which prohibits it from engaging in political activities or acting as an industry representative. Its governance and operations aim to achieve the best possible return on investment for the Australian grape and wine sector. Does this mean it’s not the body that has any role to play in protecting us from the savagery of the duopolies, or in lobbying for government support to be directed to particular sectors, like “mum and dad” wineries?

While on the government front, state and federal governments are crowing about China’s ending of the industry-strangling tariffs it had placed on Australian wine, but I haven’t seen Emanuel popping the sparkling wine cork. Does this mean there is devil in the detail?

I am curbing alcohol consumption and opting for quality over quanitity. I am not alone. What do you make of this trend?

What’s your message for government? Is it harder for them to care, given how many of you there are vs there being just a handful of big, headline-grabbing operators?

What’s your message for consumers? Should they change buying habits? Do little changes make a difference?

01:57:17 Musical Pilgrimage

In the Musical Pilgrimage, we feature song by Suedan, from the latest album, Suedan Mountain Blues, titled, Whiskey Did It.

While our panel is still here, what impact is the explosion of distilleries having on the wine sector?

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