Friday 23 August 2019

Clare Valley winemaker Neil Pike set to retire from the family business

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After more than 40 years in the beverage industry, Neil Pike, joint owner and chief winemaker of Clare Valley wine and beer producer Pikes, has announced his retirement and will leave the business at the end of September.

Joint owner Andrew Pike has thanked Neil for his immense contribution to the Pikes business.

“Neil’s contribution to the Pikes business over three and half decades is immeasurable, and I sincerely thank him for his pivotal role in building the Pikes brands,” Andrew said.

“The 1985 Pikes Polish Hill River Riesling was the very first wine that Neil made under the Pikes label.

“Thirty-five years later, this wine has morphed into the Pikes ‘Traditionale’ Riesling, becoming the signature label for Pikes and one of Australia’s most popular premium white wines.

“We have carved an enviable reputation for our extensive range of white and red table wines under Neil’s custodianship.”

As part of the family succession agreement, Neil’s brother Andrew and his wife Cathryn are planning to take over Neil’s shareholding, while sister Heather will remain as a shareholder, ensuring the company remains in family hands.

“Neil’s decision, after completing his 35th vintage for the company, will become a catalyst to undertake structural change within the Pikes Group of businesses to reposition our brand for the challenges of the future,” said Andrew.

“In terms of specific succession plans within the business, this will evolve after an orderly transition period around Neil’s retirement, and will involve broad consultation within the group’s existing management team and the family.

“We have a strong, loyal and experienced team at Pikes who are capable and ready to take the business forward.”

Current senior winemaker Steve Baraglia will transition into Neil’s role as chief winemaker.

“Steve has been with Pikes for 16 years and has grown with, and been intrinsically involved in all aspects of wine production,” said Andrew.

“He has been part of the evolution of the Pikes brands and will transition into the role of Chief Winemaker for the group, ensuring that Pikes winemaking will be in very safe hands.”

Neil Pike said that while the decision to step back had become obvious to him recently, he had been contemplating the decision for a while.

“Having just completed my 40th consecutive vintage in Clare, and also contemplating that I will turn 60 this September, I came to the conclusion that this was an appropriate time to take a step back in my working life,” he said.

“I plan to spend more time with my wife Amanda Jo and my son Callum, as well as attempting to arrest the slide in my golf handicap.”

Andrew said that the family business continues to look to the future with great optimism.

“There is a huge sense of pride about what has been achieved over the past 35 years,” he said.

“We are excited and motivated to continue to build on the legacy of Neil’s contribution, and to facilitate and foster an orderly succession as the sixth generation of Pikes in the family beverage business begin to make their mark.

“Our sons Jamie and Alister are already undertaking important roles within the business, Jamie in Management, Marketing and Sales, and Alister heading up Pikes Beer company operations.”

The Pike family’s long history in the beverage sector started in 1878 with the arrival of patriarch Henry Pike and his young family from Dorset, England.

Henry established a brewery at Oakbank in the Adelaide Hills in 1886 and subsequent generations expanded the business from brewing to soft drinks and cordials, while also building a chain of hotels through the Adelaide Hills and environs.

Unfortunately, the old family business fell upon hard times during and after the Great Depression and was ultimately closed and sold off in the early to mid 1960s.

Pikes Wines was established in the Clare Valley in 1984 by fourth and fifth generation direct descendants of Henry Pike, with Henrys’ great grandson Edgar Pike (and his wife Merle) and their children Andrew (and his wife Cathy), Neil and Heather being the founding shareholders.

Since then, a number of new ‘branches’ of the Pike family tree have emerged.

In 1998, the now highly regarded Pike & Joyce cool climate wine business in partnership with the Joyce family at Lenswood in the Adelaide Hills was established, and more recently, the single vineyard Gaelic Cemetery label from the White Hutt sub region of the Clare Valley.

Pikes Beer was reintroduced to the market in 1996 and in December 2014, the new Pikes Beer Company craft brewery was opened. The new Pikes Tasting Room and Slate Restaurant was opened in December 2018 as part of an integrated visitor experience at Pikes.

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