The annual AC Nielsen release of wine market data last week by brand and wine company has some telling results, and probably is what drinkers wish to hear.

There has been a slide in the market share of Australia’s big three – Fosters (28.5% down to 21.2%), Constellation (22% down to 13.5%) and Pernod Pacific (down to 10.2%).

The winners indirectly are Australian drinkers as the landscape of sales changes. However, it is not encouraging for the very small producers who are being squeezed out further but it is a heartening sign for family-owned companies, which have gained in market share.

This is Yalumba (4.6%), De Bortoli (4.6%), McWilliams (3.8%) and Brown Brothers (3.8%) who have gained ; even though De Bortoli’s recent report of recording a 1.6 million loss last financial year tells more than a slice of the market story.

However, it has been clear for several years that the listed wine companies simply cannot make double-digit returns every year and yet stay in the game through growth. Most have managed to wreck their investment instead and we have seen the progression of listed brands reporting losses and write-downs, and many moving on from the ASX register.

Of the few remaining, Fosters and Lion Nathan are propped up by beer manufacture while those pure wine companies, such as Australian Vintage and Cockatoo Ridge still report losses. Australian Vintage is currently in discussions with Constellation regarding sharing assets and bottling production facilities in their major market, the UK.

Hopefully we are going to see a rise of family wine companies which keep balance in the wine business by thinking long term and not wrecking asset values by trying to turn large unsustainable businesses into immediate cash cows.

That both Yalumba and Tyrrells have recorded and celebrated 150 years in the drinks and wine business recently is testament to more industry stability on the horizon.

Last August 12 family wine companies — Brown Brothers (Victoria), Campbells (Victoria), d’Arenberg (South Australia), De Bortoli (NSW), Henschke (South Australia), Howard Park (Western Australia), Jim Barry (South Australia), McWilliam’s (NSW), Tahbilk (Victoria), Taylors (South Australia), Tyrrell’s (NSW) and Yalumba (South Australia) — came together to form the First Families of Wine (

This group has pledged to raise the image of Australian wine both here and internationally, spending AUD 600,000 during the first year.

There are reports that Barossa-based winemaker Grant Burge has grown his annual sales by 50% to AUD 50 million.

According to AdelaideNow, Burge said, “I’m grumpy because wine has traditionally been a family-based industry. Now the public wine companies are blaming the harsh economic conditions for the wine industry’s problems. You have to take a long term view, the wine industry is no place for public companies with fast buck approaches, because you need to constantly reinvest.”

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