Crittenden Confusion

What’s in a name? A hell of a lot, sometimes. Your name can be your brand, and your entire livelihood can depend on it.

Garry Crittenden and his family own the Crittenden Estate vineyard (tastings) on the Mornington Peninsula. They’ve produced wine there, by growing and making it themselves, since 1984. Garry, a well-known and distinguished viticulturalist for most of his life, takes a back seat these days but is still a director, while his son Rollo is winemaker and viticulturalist. Based on their 10-hectare vineyard at Dromana, their wines are of limited production, high quality and premium prices – between about $25 and $50 a bottle. 

But, if you happen to be in a Woolworths liquor store such as BWS, Safeway or Dan Murphy’s, you may encounter some very cheap wines labeled Crittenden & Co. These are mass-market wines, priced below $5, and have nothing to do with the Crittenden family or Crittenden Estate. At such a low price, they are probably contract-made by big-volume wineries in the bulk-wine regions, and almost certainly don’t contain a drop of high-cost Mornington Peninsula wine. They are the antithesis of single-vineyard, carefully-grown, fastidiously produced wines from the likes of Garry and Rollo Crittenden.

There is another Crittenden family who for many years ran wine shops in Melbourne, called Crittenden’s, which were sold and absorbed into Woolworths several years ago. About 10 years ago Woolies, who also bought the rights to the Crittenden & Co name, decided to launch a line of wines under that label.

Most people in the wine business know there is no connection between the two, but does the public? Probably not, and now the Crittenden family of Crittenden Estate have gone public in an effort to clarify the matter.

Garry Crittenden writes: “We … have no connection with the Crittenden & Co brand, but we believe there is confusion in the wine drinking public about the origin of Crittenden & Co wines.” He says the family receives a ‘significant number’ of inquiries about these wines, many of which are critical of, or voicing concerns about, Crittenden & Co wines. “(The messages) are sent to us because the writers believe that we, the Crittenden family, are the makers of these wines. That is most certainly not the case – and it is of great concern to us.”

One could also ask whether Woolworths is trying to pass these wines off as Crittenden Family wines, or at least to profit from the widespread ignorance about the wines’ origins and take advantage of the good name of the Crittenden family of Dromana? 

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