Et Tu Kilikanoon? Is There A Problem With Chinese Ownership Of Australian Wineries?

Let me start by saying that I like the wines made at Kilikanoon. A few years ago, I had a half dozen wines delivered to me by the then Wine Society (a cooperative which tries to save money for its members by bulk buying wines at deep discounts to the recommended retail price and on selling at cost to its members).

The Kilikanoon wines in that box were a bit unusual, in that they were made from French grapes by Kilikanoon. But I liked them, and I was happy that I did not pay full price for them.

The escalating trade crisis which Communist China has inflicted on most Australian exports in recent wines has led to calls to boycott Chinese products, and most recently a list of 41 Australian wineries has circulated in the past week which are apparently owned by Chinese interests. The suggestion is that Australians should boycott those wineries.

I think it is important, when thinking about boycotting anything, as to whether you are hurting yourself, or people whom you do not want to hurt by participating in a boycott.

After all, Communist China is not doing itself any favours by placing bans on Australian coal, meat, wine or barley, to just name a few products. Their main other source of coal is Mongolia, and there has been disruption to their industry from switching Australian coal off. Similarly Chinese beer, minus Australian barley, is going to be a whole lot more expensive.

And refusing to accept Australian meat and wine is just cutting off your nose to spite your face. Why would you deny yourself such great quality food and drink?

Of course, the Communist regime which rules China does not care about Chinese people per se. The Great Leap Forward, as even Homer Simpson knows, killed perhaps 60 million people.

Before boycotting those 41 wineries which are purportedly Chinese owned, we should think about a few things.

One is that a lot of Australians are employed by such wineries, and that their continued viability is important for preserving those jobs.

Another is that wineries in a lot of regions are interdependent to some degree, as fostering the local wine tourism. Kill off one winery, or perhaps three or four in an emerging wine region, and the cellar door sales for all might plummet as wine tours become less viable. That can have knock on effects on hotels, cafes, restaurants and niche retail in small towns.

And a third is that if someone happens to be ethnically Chinese, or even born in mainland China, but now an Australian citizen committed to their new country and to making a life here, they should be treated the same as any other Australian. After all, I think anyone in their right mind would rather live in Australia than in a highly polluted communist dictatorship.

So boycotting Chinese owned Australian wineries becomes a much more complex issue than would appear at first. The problem becomes more one as to whether we can identify wineries owned by individuals and entities closely connected with or controlled by the Chinese Communist Party and its regime, and if so, what would be the local economic impacts of having those wineries suffer from a boycott?

As an aside, I have seen the list of 41 wineries, and I must say, there are only five which I know anything about. Aside from Kilikanoon, there is Burge Family Wines (which does not mention Chinese ownership on its website, and is a separate entity from the Grant Burge Wines of which I am very fond), Chateau Yaldara, Ferngrove, and Cimicky Wines (a friend of mine is a huge fan of the latter).

This does suggest, when you look at the various giants who own most of the wine industry in Australia (I do own 1000 Treasury Wine Estate shares, so I do have a dog in this fight), that Chinese interests are pretty little.

But that is not to say that Australian wine exporters are not going to suffer. Perhaps it is our patriotic duty to redouble our purchases of Penfolds wines now that China does not want them (and perhaps Treasury can lower the price of Bin 28 or Bin 389 to something more reasonable). We drink a lot of domestic wine already – maybe we should become better informed as to who owns the various labels of which we are so fond before we buy them.

I would hope that there is a silver lining, that the wine exporters who have been shipping premium beverage to China focus instead on our local market, and lower their price to something which makes it better value for money.

As for Kilikanoon? Chinese owned or not, if one of the wine discounters I regularly buy from phones me and offers me a case of their wines at a deep discount to the regular recommended retail price, who am I to say no?

Published by Ernest Zanatta

Narrow minded Italian Catholic Conservative Peasant from Footscray.

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