Vignerons call for help to stave off cash squeeze from Coles-Woolworth duopoly

Damien Cofield wants the state government to help get more exposure for the Rutherglen wine region. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON
Damien Cofield wants the state government to help get more exposure for the Rutherglen wine region. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

RUTHERGLEN vignerons want state government support to stave off a cash squeeze caused by the Woolworths and Coles duopoly.

“Profitability problems” yesterday led to the Winemakers of Rutherglen calling for financial help with marketing and high-profile events.

Winemakers of Rutherglen chairman and Cofield Wines winemaker Damien Cofield said he welcomed Wine Victoria’s recently announced industry priorities ahead of the state election, including important trade and tourism recommendations.

His group, alongside more than 800 Victorian grape growers and wine-makers represented by Wine Victoria, want a stronger partnership with the government.

That is regardless of who is in power after the November 29 election.

Mr Cofield said profitability for Rutherglen vignerons was tough, and that up to 50 per cent of wineries state-wide were failing to break even.

“The high Aussie dollar has certainly hurt export markets and the crunch that has come with the power of Coles and Woolworths is certainly making profitablity difficult,” he said.

“The best way for us to counter that is to get direct buyers into our region.”

Mr Cofield said that could be either cellar door wine tourists buying product at full cost, or bringing international buyers into the Rutherglen region.

“That means we wouldn’t have to rely on the Coles and Woolworths scenario,” he said.

Mr Cofield said Rutherglen winemakers were up against a very competitive market.

“Even trying to get wine tourists into the north-east of Victoria is challenging,” he said.

“There’s quite a few wine regions closer to Melbourne that involve just a day trip from what is a major market.

“All we’re asking for is a bit of a help in trying to get our great products a bit more exposure, get more people up here to try that.”

Wine Victoria’s initial discussions with the government and opposition had been “reasonably positive”.

Mr Cofield said Rutherglen certainly had the product to justify such support.

“We have unique, high quality wines that are relevant to markets world-wide,” he said.

“We just need a hand to get us over what is hopefully a bit of a bump from a profitability point of view.

“Certainly we don’t envisage this to be long-term and we just wouldn’t mind a helping hand to get through this period of time.”

Mr Cofield said the world was developing a taste for Victorian wine “and we need to continue to build this demand”.