Both grape vine s and trees need light to make carbohydrate via photosynthesis. The tree has an advantage in that it has a permanent framework, appropriately extended. If leaves become shaded, the branch supporting the shaded leaves will die. The vine, on the other hand, must shoot from the framework left after pruning, always very restricted in scope unless a special effort is made to spread the zone of origin so as to allow space for the annual shoots to extend in all directions, including the space where the tractor must pass. When we give the vine space its productivity doubles even though all other inputs may remain the same. The extra product can be more valuable than the money saved via mechanisation that required the cramping of the zone of origin of the shoots.
What’s Next? An Industry in crisis
Today there are too many grape vines in Australia. There have been too many ‘tax effective’ investment schemes for trees, olives and vines, and these industries are in for a hard time. The cowboys responsible for this disaster profited from the indulgence of successful federal governments both Liberal and Labour in turn responding to big company insistence that they could sell more wine overseas. That gate has now been closed, but it’s too late.
It’s not a good time to be involved in the wine business. However, we’re well established and family run. At 71 I am grateful that we have earned to support of so many people who love to visit our cellar door. Over the last two years we have built an amphitheatre to stage events and a very large dam to enlarge our water supply that is now assured.
Increasingly the task for an enterprise like ours to engage with our customers and serve them better because the structures for the distribution of wine across the country are changing and the smaller players are being squeezed out. The independent operators who support regional brands have sold out to the chains. Coles is in Dunsborough and Margaret River. Big retailers tend to work with the big national players. It will take time before the grape supply contracts and the industry is in balance. Until then it’s just not a good time for wine brands, big or small. There are just too many sub $5 cleanskins on sale. Wine producers are busily trying to slit each others throats.
We will hold our own with the big retailers because we provide some products that cannot be obtained elsewhere namely the PF Wines and the sweets including Fuchsia.
So the opportunity to build a new winery and cellar door in Karridale remains just an opportunity. Its remote, many fewer visitors reach that far south. But the same consideration applied when we moved our beachfront pottery in Vasse to Commonage Road in Quindalup/Dunsborough.
Meanwhile the Quindalup Cellar Door is thriving and it will continue to grow and diversify.
What does the future hold? Will the dominant grape varieties be Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon? Here is one commentator’s perspective:
I like to wake up in the morning with a project in mind. That still seems to be happening.
When will things change? Research is focussed on production related matters. It should be focussed on the societal and economic aspects. The malaise that afflicts the wine industry in Australia relates to the ‘distortions of market forces’. Industries that are afflicted with taxes and subsidies suffer at the hands of ‘smart accountants and lawyers’. Biologists and chemists cannot solve the problems that we face. I was trained in Economics and I know how free enterprise markets should correct themselves automatically. The sad thing is how far the market is out of whack and how long the situation persists. That is a product of greed on one hand, romance on the other, misplaced ambition and the opportunity that exists to rort the tax laws and take advantage of exemptions that were never intended to apply.
A broad education in history and economics is a great thing to have but it’s not fashionable these days. That said, I see much progress being made as the masses become better educated and show more respect for their fellow man regardless of colour of skin, language or creed. Perhaps when we stop subsidising the production of cars in Australia governments might begin to look at the disastrous effect of policies that have the effect of increasing investment and promoting over-production in the wine industry.