Put this item from Australia under the heading of good news. Barossa Valley Estate, for years one of the jewels of the region for its honest, often outstanding wines, is back in the hands of the grapegrowers who started it in 1985.
In late March, Barossa Valley Estate announced that it had completed a deal with Constellation Australia for its 50 percent share of the winery and brand. Barossa Growers Holdings Ltd., which represents the more than 100 growers who banded together to create BVE, are now busy looking for a new importer to bring the wines to the U.S.
U.S.-based Constellation sold 80 percent of its Constellation Australia in December to a Sydney-based private equity firm, which is changing the name of its new wine business to Accolade. Although it agreed to continue importing the wines to the U.S., Constellation has been focusing its attention on U.S. brands, as mentioned in my blog earlier this week. That has left important wines far short of the circulation they used to have, including BVE's flagship Shiraz E&E Black Pepper, which has on several occasions scored classic ratings (95 points or higher on Wine Spectator's 100-point scale), and the consistently outstanding Ebenezer Shiraz.
"Between you and me it has been frustrating for us to see our U.S. consumers having so much trouble finding our wines," said Stuart Bourne, BVE's winemaker and operations manager. "The U.S. and Canada are our two major export markets, but it's been diminishing lately."
Bourne said the negotiations were amicable. "Over the past year we have expressed our concerns, as we have become less of a critical mass to them. Constellation indicated that they would be open to an offer to buy out their share. We made the offer, and they accepted it."
Constellation did not leave BVE out in the cold, with stocks all over the U.S. and Canada. To make the transition smoother, it will continue to import the wines for the next 12 months.
"That gives us a year to line up new distribution in the U.S., someone who has the passion and discernment to take these wines where they should be going," Bourne added. "Down the track, U.S. consumers should see the wines in greater numbers and with greater availability." Bourne indicated that several importers had already expressed interest.
"We've come full circle," Bourne laughed. "We started out as a bunch of old Barossa growers making our own wine, and now we're back to that. It feels right."
Pauline Decloedt — canada — April 14, 2011 1:54pm ET
Harvey Steiman — San Francisco, CA — April 14, 2011 2:01pm ET
Karl Mark — Geneva, IL. — April 16, 2011 1:50am ET
Ron Lippitt — Warwick, RI — April 16, 2011 2:55pm ET
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