Treasury Wine Estates: Devourer of Brands

Red wine has been my poison of choice since my mid 20s. And I have considered myself fairly well informed about red wine since my early 30s.

And since my early 30s, I have also frequently been an investor in publicly listed Australian wine companies. That started with BRL Hardy (now the privately owned Accolade) in 2000, followed shortly afterwards by Southcorp and Fosters Group (whose combined wine interests now form Treasury Wine Estate).

I chuckle now at the idea that 1000 shares in Southcorp at about $5 per share comprised a large part of my then share portfolio. Right now, I have 1000 shares at about $14 in Treasury Wine Estates, and 25000 shares at about $0.60 in the much smaller Australian Vintage Group.

I don’t own those shares anymore because I think they are a good investment – I own them because I believe in Australian ownership of important companies which produce things which matter to me, and because I feel better about my high expenditure in and consumption of wine through being an investor.

But I am not really interested in talking today about whether there is a point in continuing to invest in the remnant of what, 20 years ago, was a very promising sector of the Australian sharemarket.

What I want to talk about is the disappearance of quite a few once ubiquitous wine brands, which I just realised this past week.

Treasury Wines appears, from its website, to be devoting itself to only 18 or so wine brands. Several others which it owns appear to have suddenly and unceremoniously disappeared. This is a bit of a panegyric for three of them.

Let’s start with Ingoldby’s. Foster’s Group’s wine arm, Mildara Blass, took them over around 1995 or so. I remember a friend (whose brother worked in a pub) giving me a tip to buy some of the bottles if I found them as they were a bargain at the price after the takeover. Ingoldby’s has always been a respected but low key brand. It no longer appears to exist, although Google diverts you to the Treasury website.

Then we have Jamison’s Run. Who can remember drinking red wine in the mid 1990s without encountering it at lunchtime? It was a quaffable $15 or so (when $15 did mean more than it does now) dry red, made of either Cabernet or a Cabernet based blend, with a distinctive purple hued painting on the label. Jamison’s Run was pretty popular in its day, and then became a brand featuring a lot of other blends and varietals from which you might choose. Gone.

And there’s Rosemount Estate. I will save the narrative about its reverse takeover of Southcorp (which valued it at over a billion dollars) and the disaster which followed for another time. What I remember is the wine. I occasionally drank their premium flagship, the Balmoral Syrah, but I usually stuck (I was only 30 then after all and not as well off as I am now) to their cheap and cheerful diamond label series- particularly their Shiraz Cabernet blend.

I remember as a sign of their upcoming demise when they launched a diamond label Sangiovese. There were posters all over bus shelters featuring a raven haired beauty with very pale skin raising a glass to her luscious red lips. It really made you want to go out there and buy a bottle of the varietal. But you could not find it anywhere.

Right now, that does not matter. Rosemount Estate does not seem to exist as a separate wine brand anymore, whereas in the year 2000 it was the second most best selling wine brand in Australia.

And that does make me rather sad – I remember many happy evenings in a Chinese restaurant in Canberra in the winter of 1999 with the Rosemount Shiraz Cab blend, just as I remember sipping the classic original Jamison Run version over lunch circa 1995.

Along with my youth, these wines too appear to have gone. Treasury Wine Estate has abandoned them.

But I will remember them, with fondness and nostalgia. Possibly more than they deserved.

Published by Ernest Zanatta

Narrow minded Italian Catholic Conservative Peasant from Footscray.

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