Treasury Wine Estates insult to the Wynn family

Life in the zoom-zoom lane

I read James Halliday in The Weekend Australian Magazine most weeks, then put the mag aside, thinking I will catch up on some of the other articles later. Sometimes I get around to this. Other times the mag just ends up in the recycling. Flicking through the 22 April edition I came across an article by Dan Neil on the Bugatti Chiron, an 8.0-litre, 16-cylinder motor vehicle with quad turbos: a zoom-zoom machine indeed.

It’s a very fast car that costs about US$3 million ($4 million) and is only available in left-hand drive. It’s not really suitable for Australia, not just because of the left-hand drive, but because of the top speed, which Neil reckons is about 450kmh.

Certainly, I have suffered from the lead foot at times, and have the points and contributions to various state coffers to prove it. But over 400kmh?

In the same edition there was a two-page review on a Lamborghini, a mere 6.5-litre job capable of about 300kmh at a modest price of $800,000.

I’m not into cars of any description, and my knowledge of them is woeful. The point of mentioning the two above is the amount of space they received in the magazine in comparison to wine coverage. In simple terms, there are probably a few people living in Australia who can afford to spend US$3 million on a car, and several more who can spend $800,000, but how many: 50, 100, 500?

Maybe there are more; who knows? What I think is there are many more among the Australian population of 24 million that can afford a bottle of Penfolds Grange, Henschke Hill of Grace or a multitude of Australian wines in the $150-$300 bracket. Am I wrong in assuming the majority of people who enjoyed reading about the supercars would in no way have the income to buy and maintain one?

Nor are there as many as we would like prepared to spend over $100 on a bottle of wine, but why don’t they enjoy reading about wine, as they do about supercars? Is wine writing now so dull, or is it the subject? My personal view is that the writing (including mine) is duller than it used to be when people like Walter James, Max Lake, Cyril Ray, Kingsley Amis, Auberon Waugh, Derek Cooper and a host of others were wielding pens on wine.

Your views are very welcome.

Insulting a great name

Wynn is an honoured name in the history of Australian wine. Treasury Wine Estates (TWE) has insulted that name and should apologise to the family.

The respect I was building for CEO Michael Clarke has been severely depleted. I hold no doubt Clarke doesn’t give a damn about my opinion of him. His job is to get a return for shareholders, which he has done, and I admire him for that. Though I will remind him and others that he has been lucky with the Penfolds brand, having built it on the work that former CEO David Dearie started.

Last week’s TKR included an article on TWE’s launch of French wines. TKR has doubts it will succeed, but we hope it does, and in that respect we support TWE.

This week’s announcement from TWE:

Treasury Wine Estates has launched a new range dedicated to the pioneering spirit of Samuel Wynn. This brand, Samuel Wynn & Co, was inspired by the adventurous spirit of a Polish immigrant who made a big impact on the Australian wine industry.”

Samuel Wynn is the anglicised name of Shlomo ben David, born in 1891 in Russian-occupied Poland. Jews were required to adopt a surname, and the family took the name Weintraub (Wine Grape), because they were involved in the making of wine from raisins for use in Jewish religious ceremonies.

Shlomo and his wife Chava (Little Bird) arrived in Melbourne in November 1913. Shlomo Weintraub became Samuel Wynn and started to build the family fortune and reputation.

Samuel’s story is fascinating and involves a lot more than wine. The TWE media release says:

“Wynn went on to purchase John Riddoch’s Coonawarra winery and vineyards, together with his brother, and renamed the property Wynns Coonawarra Estate.”

Samuel Wynn did not buy the property and there was no brother involved. His son David bought it, while Samuel was away on a trip to Israel. Samuel was extremely angry about this. David told me sometime in the 1980s that Samuel did his utmost to cancel the contract. I understand from other family conversations that having failed to cancel the contract, Samuel was so angry he never went to Coonawarra again. Not that Samuel was anti-Coonawarra wine; he bought lots of it and even discussed forming a consortium to buy the Riddoch vineyard. But he did not want to go solo.

The Wynn name has become interwoven with Coonawarra. The journey to TWE started in 1985, when Penfolds acquired Allied Vintners’ Australian holdings, including Wynns.

Takeover and mergers have put it in the TWE portfolio. For many years, Wynns Coonawarra Estate was underappreciated, underfunded and basically unloved by its various masters. Again, it was under the direction of Dearie that Wynns started to regain some of its glory.

To TWE’s credit, it has continued to invest and promote the Coonawarra wines. The production will never be as large as Penfolds but it could become a brand that fetches very high prices and be extremely profitable for TWE.

Now, in all its wisdom, TWE has decided to use the great Wynn name to adorn a marketing-driven bottle design, filled with wine from no specific region other than being South Australia, but not Coonawarra.  It’s equivalent of the dags hanging off a fine merino sheep’s arse.

I agree with the media release: “Wynn played a key role in establishing the Melbourne wine scene in the early 20th century.”  That continued with his son David from the middle to the end of the century (crossing over with Samuel) and with grandson Adam into the 21st century (crossing over with David).

Apart from some vineyard holdings, the family is now out of wine, but the name Wynn lives on. It lives on as a Coonawarra icon, not as some mixed regional brand. TWE says:

The story is used to strengthen engagement with millennial consumers who like wine, but are not necessarily loyal to the category.”

Engage millennials by all means, but not by degrading a great name and great brand.

The release also says:

“The two wines, released in Australia, are ‘The Man From Nowhere’ Shiraz, and the ‘Last Rites’ Cabernet Sauvignon. Both are multi-regional blends and have a recommended retail price of $18.99. The new brand builds on momentum gained through recent Treasury Wine Estates innovations, including the 19 Crimes Cabernet Sauvignon – which was the top performing ‘new product development’ in wine in 2016, according to Aztec Data.” 

How long will the Wynn wines remain at $19? The 19 Crimes started off around the same price but is already discounted down to $10. TWE and Clarke should be ashamed of taking a great name and insulting it. Perhaps Clarke should return to flogging custard powder.

The must read article this week is in the international section on the changing USA wine retail landscape. 

There will not be a Key Report next week as we are taking a winter break. Until we return,

 

Good drinking

 

Good karma

 

Tony

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *