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30/09/2013

Nothing to savour in wine festival says Blass

Wine maker Wolf Blass told the Advertiser he has been "very disappointed" with several aspects of the recent Savour Australia festival held in Adelaide.

The three-day business event, a joint initiative between Tourism Australia and Wine Australia, was the biggest Australian wine forum ever undertaken.

The conference was tipped to attract 750 overseas visitors and have an economic benefit to the state of $2.8 million, but the Advertiser said it understands it will fall well short of its benchmarks.

“Orlando and Treasury Wine Estates both supported the festival very strongly financially because we wanted to keep it in South Australia,’’ Blass said.

“Unfortunately we had to restructure after a major sponsor (Qantas) didn’t respond with the expected support to ensure enough overseas people came to town.

“We only entertained 70 people at Saltrams (restaurant at Tanunda) the other day, but that situation is behind us now and hopefully next year we can do it in a bigger way.”

Blass also said South Australia should capitalise on its wine much more than it does.

The industry will seek help from Senator Nick Xenophon to bring changes to wine tax policy and in particular the Wine Equalisation Tax (WET), which claims is being rorted.

The WET grants small wine producers tax breaks through rebates, while medium to large sized wine producers are exempt.

"I think we are relying pretty heavily on Nick and a couple of other Senators to get involved and get this situation changed,” Blass said.

“We desperately need to restructure and get extra money coming in for the promotion of Australian wine overseas.”

Blass also took the opportunity to call on SA government leaders to help the state forge a new identity in the world and become known exclusively as the “wine state”.

“Gourmet wine and food is what we do best and what we should be offering to the world,’’ he added.

“We need to stop talking about mining booms and car manufacturing, and festivals of art in this state.

"We just need to settle once and for all that we are the wine state and get on with selling ourselves.’’

79-year-old Blass, whose Wolf Blass label is today owned by Australia’s largest wine producer Treasury Wine Estates, said South Australia supplies more than 55 per cent of Australian wine exports.

“This state is selling about 500 million bottles for export,’’ he added.

“When you think that on average a bottle of wine is consumed by four people, that’s around two billion people a year in the world enjoying a glass of our product.

“That’s a massive opportunity that we’re wasting.’’

In the October issue of Grapegrower & Winemaker Blass is part of the magazine’s Roundtable discussion on the value – or otherwise – of the Wine Federation of Australia’s Proposed Industry Actions for Sustained Profitability.

He is joined by WFA chief executive Paul Evans and Whistler Wine’s Melanie Maschio. It makes interesting reading and all industry stakeholders have until October 18 to comment on the report itself.

To subscribe to the Grapegrower & Winemaker, visit www.winebiz.com.au/gwm/subscribe.