Alert

The maximum quantity permitted for this item is , if you wish to purchase more please call 1300 303 307
Wine

Who makes my wine?

Walk the aisles of your local Dan Murphy’s or First Choice store and you won’t find a wine labelled “Dan Murphy’s Select” or “First Choice Home Brand”. But lurking on those shelves are more than 100 brands owned by the supermarket chains with no disclosure on the label. In an age in which we are more interested than ever in the origins of our products, how can we distinguish a small family estate from a supermarket brand?

The growth in supermarket “Buyer’s Own Brand” wines in Australia has been substantial, estimated to have mushroomed from five percent a decade ago to between 16 and 25 percent of the market today. The wine industry is concerned that this growing category of major retailers could mislead consumers.

In February 2016, a Senate Inquiry report into the Australian Wine Industry put forward a proposal from the Winemaker’s Federation of Australia (WFA) “that the Government amend labelling requirements so wine labels must declare whether wine is produced by an entity owned or controlled by a major retailer.”

“What we would like to see is that home brands are identified so consumers can make their choice,” WFA Chief Executive Paul Evans told the Inquiry. The enquiry’s report is not binding, but the government is expected to respond within six months. It can choose to accept or reject the recommendations.

Not so simple

The question of whether it should be the government’s place to legislate on this issue has been widely debated, but even if it is, the dilemma of how it could be defined and regulated is perhaps more pertinent.

Buyer’s Own Brand wines have a fully valid and important place in the market, and the major retail chains own perfectly legitimate wineries under which some of their labels are branded. Some retailers’ own brands are even made by small, private estates. Further, many high profile winemakers, including Giaconda, Clonakilla, Oakridge and St Hallett, make exclusive labels for particular retailers under the winemaker’s own brands. Such relationships are of value for all levels of the wine industry.

And if retailers are required to declare brand ownership, what of companies like Treasury Wine Estates, Accolade Wines and Pernod Ricard, who together own many more brands and a much greater market share than the supermarket groups? And, for that matter, what of the hundreds of private little “virtual” wine brands who own no vineyards, buy fruit and have it contract made in someone else’s facility?

The big issue behind this discussion is the market dominance of Woolworths (who owns BWS, Dan Murphy’s, Cellarmasters and Langton’s) and Wesfarmers (Liquorland, First Choice and Vintage Cellars) and the increasing presence of Metcash (Cellarbrations, IGA Liquor and Bottle-O), Costco, and ALDI stores in the wine market. It is estimated that Woolworths and Wesfarmers together share just under 60 percent of the domestic wine retail market, with some estimates putting this at 70 percent.

There is a bigger picture at play here, of which wine is just one small category. Controversy surrounds the supermarket duopoly and its increasing dominance across many categories. Legislative change for wine would not only be fraught with complications surrounding definitions and implementation, but such a precedent would have enormous ramifications for groceries, fuel, hardware, office supplies, insurance, etc.

HOW TO FIND WHO MAKES YOUR WINE

Without a mandate for transparency in labelling, what hope do you have of knowing who made your wine? This was the question that perplexed Murrumbateman winemaker Sarah Collingwood, who responded by creating “Who makes my wine”, a website listing all the brands owned by Woolworths and Wesfarmers.

When Sarah ultimately discontinued her site, wine writer Huon Hooke offered to host it. Some 280 brands are listed at therealreview.com, more than 100 of which are currently listed in Woolworths and Wesfarmers stores.

The Senate Inquiry into supermarket own brands has perhaps raised more questions than it has answered, and there is much for the wine industry to consider regarding achieving greater transparency in wine labelling.

THE DEBATE RAGES

“At the core of this debate is the accusation that Coles, Woolies and other retailers with ‘own brands’ have no investment in the wine industry, but are opportunists who buy ready-made wine and put their own label on it,” says Huon Hooke. “Of course, there are many so-called wine producers that do the same thing: they own no vineyards nor wineries, but act like negociants,” 

Larry Lockshin, Professor of Wine Marketing and Head of the School of Marketing, University of South Australia, agrees.

“There is no doubt that Buyer’s Own Brands, however they are labelled, take shelf space from branded wineries. But Buyer’s Own Brands are also made from Australian grapes, by Australian winemakers, in Australian facilities. Small growers have sold their wines (and later their grapes) to larger entities for hundreds of years. These entities: negociants, shippers, wholesalers and retailers have always created wine brands. The difference is that none of these historically has had the market power that a few retail companies in Australia currently enjoy.”

The issue of transparency is very different in the UK, James Tilbrook of Tilbrook Estate explains, “In the UK, supermarkets proudly display their brand and what the wine is called, e.g. Sainsbury’s Champagne. If it is good enough for them, why do Aussie supermarkets want to hide behind fake brands?”

Winemaker John Cassegrain also feels strongly about being honest with wine-lovers.

“The expectation from consumers is that they are buying hand-crafted wine from a vineyard estate, but the labelling of ‘home brands’ by the supermarkets is, in effect, cheating. They are not hand-crafted wines, in actual fact, they are manufactured wines, so to me it reeks of misrepresentation.”

“I think wine consumers need to understand what they are buying and where these are made,” agrees Leigh Dryden of Decante This. “There are so many ‘own brands’ out there it has become increasingly hard to tell the authentic from the bogus. Retailers, makers and distributors have nothing to fear of the truth.”

Even more vehement about the issue is Mornington Peninsula winemaker, Garry Crittenden.

“Speaking as someone with first hand experience of the way the major supermarkets treat their relations with wine suppliers, I can honestly say it beggars belief that, in the face of continuing opprobrium, they still treat the industry and their customers with an indifference bordering on contempt. But maybe it’s not so surprising when it’s simply part of the embedded culture surrounding supplier relations,” says Garry.

“Is it asking too much of them that they disclose a particular house wine is just that and the brand is owned by them? I can only hope that in his 2nd term as head of ACCC Mr Sims can dismantle some of the disingenuousness we see from these people.”

However, Hunter Valley winemaker Andrew Leembruggen,  believes the producers need to act themselves.

“I think wine businesses should adopt a labelling code of practice that has words or statements producers could use like ‘estate made and bottled’ or ‘estate made’.”

You might also like

Wine
Howard Park Dream Vertical
Words by Paul Diamond on 30 Sep 2015
Western Australian wine is a true phenomenon.It contributes less than 5% of Australia’s total production, but in a good year, can create some of the country’s best Chardonnay, Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon. And in such a short space of time, just over 40 years, the west has come a long way.  Margaret River has an identity of “bush, blue sky and surf” combined with “pioneering spirit meets entrepreneurial drive” to create something that is completely unique, stylish and undoubtedly Australian. One of the stories that completely embodies this special identity is the Burch family that owns and operates Howard Park Wines. Like many of the great Margaret River estates, Howard Park did not start as a Burch family concern, but as a side project. In 1986, John Wade, while working as a winemaker at Plantagenet Wines, made a Riesling and Cabernet at Denmark Agricultural College and labelled them in honour of his father Howard. During this time, John attended a single bottle club lunch in Perth as a guest and sat next to Jeff Burch. Over this lunch a kinship was formed and not long after that Jeff and his wife Amy became partners in Howard Park. Two years later, Jeff Burch purchased a picturesque 138 acres of pasture in Margaret River that has the Wilyabrup creek running through it. Named Leston after Jeff’s father, it was situated in the heart of prime vine growing territory. The partnership between John and Jeff grew and in the early 90s they added Chardonnay to the Howard Park stable and started to release wines under the MadFish label. Early on, MadFish gained attention due to the striking depiction of the Aboriginal water turtle that symbolises perseverance and tolerance. Produced from cool climate fruit as approachable, contemporary and solid value wines, MadFish is now 20 years old and one of Australia’s most recognisable wine brands. A family business Over the next decade, the MadFish-Howard Park growth story accelerated. They purchased a property in Denmark upon which the first winery and cellar door were built. Jeff’s brother David and sister Lesley came on board and foundations for a new winery and cellar door at Leston vineyard were poured as the flagship single vineyard range of Scottsdale Cabernet and Leston Shiraz was released. By this stage, John had left and Howard Park-MadFish became a Burch family operation. In the early 2000s, they acquired a 200 hectare, cool climate property in Mt Barrow (Great Southern). As the wine stable grew and the quality increased, the accolades started to roll in. Jeff and Amy’s daughter Natalie joined the business, and the Burch family combined forces with Burgundian winemaker and biodynamic ambassador Pascal Marchand on a project to produce wines from both WA and Burgundy under one label. The Marchand & Burch range includes French bubbles (Cremant), Pinot and Chardonnay and Australian Shiraz, Chardonnay and Pinot. Today, family is still at the fore with Jeff CEO, Amy GM and marketing director, David managing the vineyards, daughter Natalie managing operations and sons Richard and David managing east coast sales and marketing. Tasting history Wine is the Burch family’s religion and it binds them in a way that is both humbling and inspiring. To get closer to their story, along with Wine Selectors Panellist Dave Mavor, I headed to Margaret River for a tasting with the family. In their newly opened Wine Chapel, we absorbed the family narrative through the varieties they hold dear: Riesling, Chardonnay, Shiraz and Cabernet. Howard Park Riesling 2001, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2012, 2014 Howard Park Chardonnay 2003, 2004, 2007, 2009, 2013, 2014 Marchand & Burch Parongurup Chardonnay 2011, 2013, 2012, 2013, 2014 Marchand & Burch Mount Barrow Pinot Noir 2012, 2013, 2014 Howard Park Leston Shiraz 2000, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2009, 2012 Howard Park Abercrombie Cabernet Sauvignon 2000, 2003, 2004, 2008, 2010, 2012 First up was Howard Park Riesling from the cool climate of Great Southern, a wine that since 1986 has defined the identity of Howard Park and is one of Australia’s most collected. Stylistically, Great Southern Rieslings are quite different from those of Clare or Eden Valley in that they start out as tight and slender with positive minerality, and with age, blossom into generous and elegant wines that have wonderful complexity. The older examples of 2001 and 2004 proved that these Rieslings age wonderfully with both wines showing delicate, youthful flavours balanced by toasty development. Everyone had favourites for a range of reasons: winemaker Janice McDonald loved the 2012 for its concentration and effortless neutrality and Natalie favoured the 2014 for its refreshing zest and weight. The highly awarded Chardonnay was next, stretching back to 2003. These wines are constructed with a mixture of fruit from Mount Barker, Porongurup and Margaret River and represent the leaner, cooler side of the Chardonnay spectrum. Very pretty and elegant, they have fresh acidity and bright, clean flavours that help them age slowly and gracefully. Minerality and texture are noticeable with the standouts holding beautiful fruit flavours of melons, grapefruits and nuts with a creamy, savoury complexity. Dave enjoyed the 2007 with its fresh citrus core and Jeff loved the 2013 for its balance and length. French connection Next came the Marchand & Burch Porongurup Chardonnays. The standard was high with a lean and tight style that delivers citrus and melon flavours with complexity, minerality and finesse. Standouts were the 2013 for its crème brulée aromas and tropical fruit palate and Jeff loved the 2007 for its French leanings and flinty complexity. Pinot Noir followed with the Marchand & Burch Mount Barrow line-up. These wines showed a distinct development of style that highlighted how critical vine age is to creating wines that have weight and complexity. The 2012 was lovely, with pretty sour cherry fruit, savoury spices and soft tannins and the depth and structure built as we moved through to the 2014. Considering how demanding Pinot Noir can be, especially from young vines, the potential of the Marchand & Burch Mt Barrow Pinot is massive. Amy and Natalie were both wowed by the 2014 due to its luscious layers and fine complexity. Leston Shiraz was next, stretching back to 2000, and considering Margaret River is not known as a Shiraz region, the high quality and consistency came as a pleasant surprise and highlighted the diversity of Australian Shiraz. All the wines had a lovely soft, black fruit signature with delicate layers of spice and fine tannins. As Shiraz goes, these wines are definitely on the savoury side and the oldest wines were aging beautifully. Richard loved the 2003 for its complexity, Dave’s standout was the balanced 2005 and Janice loved the perfume and fruit integrity of the 2009. Flying the Cabernet flag Lastly came the flagship Abercrombie bracket crafted from a selection of the oldest vineyards in Margaret River, Mount Barker and Porongurup. These wines are serious; they have depth, structure, complexity and would easily rank as some of the best Cabernet Australia can produce. Named after Jeff’s great-grandfather Walter Abercrombie, the wines are earthy, savoury and full of black fruits, but have incredible finesse and harmony. Jeff was impressed with how well the 2000 had aged, Natalie loved the 2012 “just because.” The tasting was a special line-up of wines that highlighted that Howard Park, just like WA wine, has come a long way in a short space of time. The exercise was made extra special by the generosity of the Burch family in sharing their wines, their stories and proving that wine is made better with family.
Wine
Celebrating 150 years of Best’s Great Western
Iconic Victorian, family owned winery, Best’s Great Western is in celebration mode this year with 2016 marking their 150th anniversary. Here at Wine Selectors we’ve proudly been working with Best’s Great Western for over 20 years and we’re excited to be a part of their amazing history. Established by the Best family in 1866, and owned by the Thomson family since founder Henry Best’s death in 1920, the estate is home to some of Australia’s oldest and most significant vineyards. “His determination, flare, and pioneering spirit are been huge qualities that I admire greatly. I'm extremely fortunate to work with my father Dominique and share his same vision for quality.” Patriarch and fourth generation winemaker Eric (Viv) Thomson is currently overseeing his 55th consecutive vintage and Best’s is now managed by his son Ben who is also the vineyard manager and Best’s talented winemaker, Justin Purser. “I’ve been working with Viv since the 1990s and what is truly impressive about Best’s Great Western is they consistently deliver exceptional wine at great value year after year – that’s why we love their wines,” says Trent Mannell, Wine Selectors Panel Member and senior buyer. “I love visiting their winery in the Grampians, it’s full of original equipment and the barrel stores and cellars are just amazing. When you walk in there you can smell the history.” “ While we’re celebrating 150 years of winemaking, our philosophy at Best’s remains the same as in the beginning – great wines are made in the vineyard,” says Best’s Great Western’s winemaker Justin Purser. “Even while practicing a minimalist approach, attention to detail is key. At Best’s, we avoid the overpowering use of oak or additional treatments. Instead, we prefer to let the fantastic fruit from Great Western tell the story.” Victoria’s historical home of Shiraz, Best’s Great Western produces superb cool climate, aromatic Shiraz including their Bin 1 Shiraz that’s made in a style that is floral, spicy and peppery yet retains generous fruit characteristics and intensity. In 2013 their 2011 Bin 1 Shiraz won the highly-esteemed Jimmy Watson Memorial Trophy at the Royal Melbourne Wine Show and also received the Fine Wine Partners Trophy for Australia’s Wine of the Year. The 2013 vintage has already been awarded a Trophy and a Gold medal. We have Best’s Great Western Bin 1 Shiraz 2013 on tasting at our Cellar Doors at Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth domestic airport terminals during March, so if you’re travelling please join us to experience a little taste of Best’s ongoing dedication to excellence. For more Best’s Great Western wines click here
Wine
Q & A with Luke Eckersley
You’ve had so many accolades for Plantagenet wines, but what are the most meaningful, personally? For myself it is not so much industry accolades or awards, it is more being a part of the Plantagenet history, heritage and consistency and the feeling it gives you. Plantagenet is a Pioneer of the Great Southern and that in itself is an accolade for vision and belief. How did your 2016 vintage treat you? Anything unique crop up? It was a cooler than average vintage with a longer growing period so I found the Rieslings to have really shined! The wines of Great Southern are unique and diverse, but how have they changed over your time working this region? I feel over time there has been a better understanding of what varieties excel in the different sub-regions (along with the subsequent variations in style), and this knowledge has helped winemakers within the region craft wines that have better balance and are true expressions of what the regions can offer. What excites and inspires you living in the beautiful Mt Barker? It is purely the beauty, uniqueness and sparseness of the region, we have the Stirling Range as a back drop and the Southern Ocean hugging us to the south. This combined with the vineyards and the people makes it a truly amazing place to call home! Can you recall the first wine you tried? A mid-eighties Wynn’s Coonawarra Cabernet that my father had brought back (in volume) from a trip to South Australia, tried in the early nineties. A fantastic savoury wine with very good bones! When did you fall in love with wine? Having grown up in agriculture and being involved in a family vineyard wine was always of great interest to me. After completing my studies of both winemaking and viticulture I found myself more drawn to wine. It is the crafting of something that is continually evolving (living) and the enjoyment it can bring to people on lots of different levels. Do you remember that moment? What happened? I think agriculture (both growing and crafting of grapes) is simply in your blood! Do you have an all-time favourite wine to drink? Why is it this wine? I find myself more often than not drawn to Great Southern Chardonnay (from various producers!). The purity, power and fineness always amazes me, the wines lend themselves to so many different occasions from an intimate meal to a winding down ritual on a Friday evening! Do you have a favourite wine to make? Chardonnay obviously (barrel fermented), so many different layers that can be built on the raw wine to craft and evolve a wine with balance and complexity.
Two Blues Sauvignon Blanc 2014
1 case has been added to your cart.
Cart total: xxx
1 case, 12 bottles, 3 accessories