Wine industry label rule change push to show who, or what, is really behind the brand

NEW LOOK: Rutherglen winemaker Chris Pfeiffer believes proposed wine label brand ownership law changes would educate buyers and help small wineries compete in the market against major retailers.

NEW LOOK: Rutherglen winemaker Chris Pfeiffer believes proposed wine label brand ownership law changes would educate buyers and help small wineries compete in the market against major retailers.

FAMILY-run wineries have cautiously welcomed a federal government review into the grape and wine industry.

Among recommendations in the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee report, released on Friday, was to change laws so labels showed if wine brands were owned or controlled by a major retailer – such as Woolworths or Coles.

The two supermarket giants operate liquor outlets such as Dan Murphy’s, BWS and First Choice Liquor and promote their labels prominently.

“It's not a level playing field if the two biggest retailers are looking to devote between 25 and 30 per cent of the shelf space to their own brands,” respected Rutherglen wine maker Chris Pfeiffer said.

"Things that make it easier for smaller winemakers in particular to have access to the market are a good thing.”

Wine brands owned by the supermarkets include Baily & Baily, Robinsons, Rau, Pensilva Estate, Parsons Paddock, James Busby and Penola Estate.

"They are made to look like everybody else's label, and one of the points of differentiation for wineries is their story,” Mr Pfeiffer said.

"Why would you buy my wine? Well, part of that is because you've met the family and you understand where we've been and all that sort of stuff, whereas they can't tell that story if they've just got a brand there.

"A number of people would have no idea that James Busby is owned by Coles, and Woolworths have their own wine division and own their own vineyards and wineries.

"And that's integrated through their whole chain which gives them a significant advantage.”

The report called for a national Responsible Service of Alcohol accreditation.  It also recommended phasing out the Wine Equalisation Tax rebate – established under Peter Costello’s tax reforms in the late 1990s – and introducing an annual grant to cellar door operators.

Natalie Pizzini, Pizzini Wines, said smaller wineries must not be disadvantaged by the changes.

“Reform is necessary in the industry, as long as it is not at the expense of smaller wine makers and grape growers that provide diversity and economic benefits to regional Australia,” Ms Pizzini said.

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