Treasury Wine Estates to close Seppelt winery
Treasury Wine Estates has announced it’s to close the Seppelt Great Western winery. This is a tragedy, but it’s not unexpected. Treasury and other major wine groups have been progressively closing or scaling-back wineries around the country for years.
In economic rationalist terms (not always rational), it is logical that following acquisitions of wineries by wine groups, thoughts soon turn to achieving economies by rationalizing (there’s that word again) the grape and wine processing facilities.
Hardys/Constellation/Accolade closed Stonehaven, Treasury closed Rosemount, Pernod Ricard closed Wyndham Estate, and there are dozens more examples just like those. The Seppelt wines (tastings), which include the Great Western St Peters (tastings) and Chalambar shirazes (tastings), Drumborg riesling (tastings) and chardonnay (tastings), will most likely be vinified at Coldstream Hills (tastings), Wynns Coonawarra (tastings) or even Wolf Blass (tastings), way over in the Barossa, which has become the processing centre for Treasury wines sourced far and wide.
The challenge is to make the wines so that their individuality is preserved, so that Leo Buring (tastings), Penfolds (tastings) and Seppelt Drumborg rieslings don’t all taste similar. So far, Treasury does a remarkably good job of that. What irks people in the wine community is the loss of employment in the local area, in this case Ararat-Stawell-Great Western, and the potential loss of a wine icon. Seppelt Great Western has a long and distinguished history stretching back to when Joseph Best planted the first vines in 1865. Then followed the glorious Hans Irvine era, when Irvine’s so-called Great Western ‘champagne’ was created, vinified by French winemakers imported specially for the job; the digging of the famous underground tunnels by former gold miners (pictured); the purchase by the Seppelt family, and so on.
Treasury is basically indulging in asset stripping. It will keep the brand and the vineyards, and try to flog the winery. The winery has been under-utilised and rusting away for years anyway. It is destruction by neglect.
The tragic thing is that if this estate were to be sold with the brand as well as the winery and vineyards, in the hands of the right person it would be a goer. But it’s not likely to get that reprieve, as Treasury is keeping the brand. Without the brand it’s worth little. Even Warren Randall, who owns the other iconic former Seppelt family property, Seppeltsfield (tastings), would be unlikely to buy it without the brand – and there would be obvious, wonderful synergies with Seppeltsfield. But he needs the brand as well. Why won’t Treasury sell the brand? Surely it’s not that profitable. And Randall is too good a businessman to buy it without the brand.