THE Hunter Valley wine industry is under threat because of the growing dominance of global superstores, Hunter vignerons warn.
Veteran Hunter vigneron Bruce Tyrrell is a member of the famous wine family descended from English immigrant Edward Tyrrell who first grew grapes on the Brokenback Range in 1858.
The Hunter is home to 60 winemakers and 80 wineries, and Mr Tyrrell believes that number could be cut to a handful of boutique operations in 10 years and a few supplying to corporations.
It is the oldest winemaking region in Australia, but it could collapse under the weight of global companies that are set to dominate the market.
‘‘On the commercial side of the business it is just getting too hard to compete,’’ Mr Tyrrell said.
‘‘If you look at the rest of the alcohol industry we only have two breweries left in Australia, and one of those is a multi-national, and there are only about a dozen major breweries throughout the world.
‘‘In the spirit game you are also looking at about a dozen major players throughout the world and that’s what is going to happen to the wine industry.
‘‘There will be about 10 or 12 major international companies, and wineries like us in the Hunter will just serve fine wine direct to the customer and a few restaurants around the place.’’
Growers say another reason for the impending demise in the region is that there are very few Hunter wineries associated with international companies.
Brett Keeping, from Two Rivers winery in Denman, said fighting against multinational companies was a trend that had been developing for some time.
‘‘It seems to be the way in the Hunter wine industry that you get really big or you find yourself a niche,’’ Mr Keeping said.
‘‘It is very hard for small to medium wineries to compete unless you have a direct customer base and it’s only going to get harder.’’
Secretary of the Hunter Valley Wine Industry Association Greg West, from McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant, believes pressure is mounting on medium sized operations.
‘‘The wineries supplying to the Coles and the Woolworths on a larger scale will be OK and the smaller boutique wineries that rely on their cellar door sales will survive,’’ Mr West said.
‘‘But the pressure is on the medium sized wineries, and if they don’t adapt and find the right market they will struggle.’’
Global heavyweight Pernod Ricard increased the volume of Barossa Valley wine Jacob’s Creek from about 2000 cases a year to about 3.5 million cases.
Mr Tyrrell acknowledged that the high Australian dollar had influenced the industry with exported Hunter wine twice the price it was five or six years ago.
All three said coalmining and coal seam gas were other influences affecting the Hunter wine industry, which was the second-largest tourist attraction in the state last year behind Sydney.