De Bortoli expands premium red wine production with acquisition of Rutherglen Estates

A focus on premium red wine and making the most of regional differentiation is behind the De Bortoli family’s recent acquisition of Rutherglen Estates.

Third generation wine family member and Yarra Valley Estate manager Leanne De Bortoli said the acquisition was in two parts, with the purchase of the tourism facility of the Rutherglen Estates business soon to be finalised.

But she said for now it was business as usual at the Rutherglen Estates cellar door and vineyard where Marc Scalzo currently oversees winemaking and Matt Partridge is the viticulturist.

“For us it was very important to get the winery and vineyards signed off (just before Christmas) with harvest only a few weeks away,” she said.

“We have been having extensive talks with Matt and Marc because we want to continue making the wines that have been made there, providing something for the cellar door, functions and accommodation side of the business.

“But we’re also looking at doing a bit of experimentation as well, involving the winemaking team, and throughout the whole process we’ll be quite open and getting everyone involved.”

Ms De Bortoli said with Rutherglen well-known for its premium quality reds, the company was looking forward to adding more of those varieties to its portfolio to meet a growing domestic and international market.

She said the premium reds in the mid to high price range currently grown and made at Rutherglen Estates, which exhibited “plushness and density”, fitted well into the company’s overall strategy.

“We also want to look at their different varieties like Fiano – we see those as being an important part of what we do in the future, for both the domestic and the growing export market,” she said.

“For us the United Kingdom is a fairly traditional market for the company and they’ve certainly expressed interest in some of the wine styles we could make in the North East and Rutherglen, and we see enormous potential in China.

“The US is probably not a market we’ve been strong in but we’ve been working with different distributors there about the sorts of wine styles which will sit well in their market.”

The acquisition of Rutherglen Estates provides De Bortoli Wines with a third winemaking facility in addition to their Riverina and Yarra Valley sites, and it had the potential to process King Valley and Heathcote fruit.

It brings the De Bortoli family’s Victorian vineyard holdings to 820 hectares, 700 of which bear fruit with 120 in development, and other opportunities were also being sought.

Ms De Bortoli said the company saw “enormous potential” in the King Valley, where the region had made a name for itself with its Italian (and also Iberian) varieties like Prosecco, Pinot Grigio and Tempranillo.

She said some of the traditional varieties originally planted at the Moyhu vineyard like Shiraz, were being grafted over to Tempranillo and Pinot Grigio, which performed better at the location, where Prosecco was also in abundance.

“The thirst for Prosecco is not waning – the only issue we are facing is the Italians trying to stop Australian companies being able to market it as ‘Prosecco’,” she said.

“They have been trying to tie the name to the region and stop it being used by any other country but Italy, but at this stage they haven’t been able to go through with that.

“Any of the problems we might face in the future is where we export Prosecco to any other country.

“Certainly when you look at the domestic market, the growth of Prosecco has been massive and we can’t see that changing in the near future.”
Ms De Bortoli said the company was also trying to “create a bit of interest” in the North East by potentially blending varieties from different regions, and it also hoped to establish a type of Prosecco Bar at Rutherglen Estates.

“We feel strongly about the King Valley too,” she said.

“We have a range of wines called Bella Riva which is 100 per cent King Valley so we’re rejigging the label on that now and looking at adding another couple of wines to that portfolio, pushing that as a King Valley brand.

“In all the vineyards we look at what is suitable for the region and also where consumer tastes are going as well.

“Rutherglen is seen as a more traditional region, whereas places like Beechworth and King Valley are a bit more contemporary and appealing to a younger market.”

Originally published by North East Media
Written by Anita McPherson