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Australia - state of the art

Published:  23 July, 2008

Sales and acquistions

In the Hunter Valley, Michael Hope, owner of Hope Estate, has bought Rothbury Estate from Foster's. Hope fended off a challenge from Brian McGuigan to get on his hands on the property, which industry analysts have valued at just under the A$10 million mark.

Rothbury, which is in the heart of the Lower Hunter, in Pokolbin, was set up by the late Len Evans, and Hope now intends to build the tourism side of his business, which he admitted was suffering when he was based in Broke. Hope plans to hold rodeos and concerts at the 200-acre site, which includes a restaurant and cellar-door area, in addition to the winery and 25 acres of vineyards.

He told Harpers: 'What the move will bring is profile. We've now got one of the prime cellar-door locations. It's a great site to bring people to.'

In the Upper Hunter, Foster's is still seeking a buyer for its Rosemount Denman winery.

Chief winemaker Matt Koch said: 'I think the idea is for the buyer to use it for contract processing, and give a full commitment to continue growing our brands in the Hunter. The aim is to keep the styles, and the winemaking, and the vineyards. And the founder of Rosemount, Robert Oatley, is believed to be planning a new wine range under the Oatley Family Wines banner. The range will comprise three labels, using fruit from 250 hectares (ha) of vineyards owned by the Oatley family at Mudgee in New South Wales.

Over in Western Australia, Evans & Tate is in the process of selling two of its four wineries in an attempt to ease its debts. Senior winemaker Matt Byrne said the two wineries to go will be Salisbury in Mildura, Victoria (25,000-ton crush/3 million cases), and Barramundi in Griffith, NSW (15,000 tons/1 million cases). The company is down to two wineries now - one in Margaret River and one in the Yarra Valley.

He said: 'We were the eighth-biggest wine company in Australia, but the focus has changed from larger-production to smaller-production wines from Margaret River. We're still making Barramundi wine, but under contract.

'It's a very positive step for the company in selling these wineries and reducing the debt. It's a lot more intimate now - I've never spoken to head office so much. And I think that staff turnover will be less, which is great.'