Riverland grape growers reject buyout offer

South Australian grape growers have voted against accepting a voluntary buyout package from Accolade Wines, which was put forward as a solution to the Riverland’s red wine glut.

May 23, 2024, updated May 23, 2024
South Australia's Riverland. Photo: Matt Wilson.

South Australia's Riverland. Photo: Matt Wilson.

The deal was rejected by Riverland grape growers’ body, CCW Co-operative Limited – Australia’s largest member-owned wine grape co-operative, with approximately 530 grower members producing around 200,000 tonnes of wine grapes annually.

In April, Accolade Wines, which owns a portfolio of wine brands including Hardy’s, Banrock Station, Petaluma and St Hallett, offered to buy out a portion of CCW contracts at $4000 per hectare for growers looking to exit the market.

The offer also included Accolade buying out CCW’s “direct contract” bulk wine deal for export, which the group said was worth $11 per tonne.

In a meeting Tuesday night, the deal was rejected by CCW members, with a reported 314 members voting against the offer and just 17 voted to accept it.

The Accolade Wines board of directors said it was “disappointed” by the decision “on a number of counts”.

“The package was the only measure put forward to date, by any party nationally, to support a difficult, but much-needed industry transition to a more sustainable footing,” it said.

“It was also the only initiative that gave all parties some control over this process, through key terms including price, tenure, varietal mix and an optional exit package.”

The board said it was “not realistic” to expect the red wine industry to continue operating “as if global operating conditions and demand led influences have no impact”.

As reported by InDaily in 2022, some South Australian wineries have so much red wine in their tanks that fruit was being left to rot on the vine.

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The previous agreement in place between Accolade and CCW requires Accolade to accept every grape produced by growers, regardless of market demand.

Accolade said this agreement was “outdated and inflexible”, and had caused “significant damage not only to growers but also to the company”.

The rejected offer would not have impacted growers’ individual contracts with CCW, but would have meant grapes produced from hectares included in the deal would not be included in the amount Accolade purchases from CCW annually.

CCW declined to comment.

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