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Consumers are the winners with Oz surplus, says ex-Hardy's winemaker

Published:  23 July, 2008

by Christian Davis
With some Australian grape prices a third of what they were just a few years of year's ago, consumers are benefiting from great-quality Australian wines at great prices, according to Stephen Pannell, a former group winemaker with Hardy's.

Pannell was in London last month to launch his range of wines made in conjunction with, and distributed by, Liberty Wines. Some of the wines have already picked up a listing with Sainsbury's.

Pannell, the Hardy's group red winemaker between 1994 and 2003 who was responsible for 280 million bottles of wine from 10 production sites, said that he believes it will be 2010 before demand and supply are back in balance for Australian wines.

As a result of the surplus and the quality of the fruit, Pannell has introduced a 5.29 and 5.99 Chardonnay, one 100% McLaren Vale (Longboard) and the other Redfin from Adelaide Hills. He said: 'We have some top wine available in Australia from 7/8 to 20 - fabulous.'

Pannell, who has been doing consultancy work for, among others, the Tinlins winery in McLaren Vale and the Foster's group, benchmarking the latter's wines blind against those of their rivals, sees Australia's traditional strength in the 5/6 mid-price sector increasingly coming under under threat.

'Both Argentina and Spain can do it,' he said. 'Argentina has some excellent Malbec, while Spain has some wonderful old-vine Garnacha, which is, of course, a drought-resistant variety.'

While in London, Pannell also showed his Wilunga 100 range of Grenache (with 5% Shiraz), Shiraz/Viognier (5% Viognier) and Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz (with 30% Shiraz), which Liberty has priced at 7.99.