Riverland Vintners at Monash in the Riverland has a checkered history, with previous owners including Tandou coming to grief financially. But since the South Australian Wine Group started running the huge winery for the bank in 2013 – and then buying it a year later – it’s been plain sailing.
The contract processing facility is turning over more business than ever before. It’s running at capacity and the owners have invested more than $2 million into the business with another $1 million to be spent over the coming year. It’s not only local fruit they’re processing: a third of their business is premium fruit from wine regions down south.
“Business is booming and we’re feeding thirty Riverland families who otherwise wouldn’t be fed,” David Harris, CEO of the SA Wine Group, says.
“The interesting thing is that a lot of premium producers have worked out that it’s more efficient and cost effective to come up here and use us. I’m hoping that premium production will make up half of our business in coming years.”
Riverland Vintners has a crushing capacity of 25,000 tonnes and storage facilities for about 34 million litres of wine. They were limited to three small 30-year-old crushers, creating bottlenecks for trucks delivering fruit. That’s when they approached Graeme Lowe of F Miller & Co about updating their receival area. Millers had several meetings with Riverland Vintners to discuss their requirements. Drawings were then produced to ensure the proposed solution would be economical – and would work.
The winery installed two Miller 45 cubic metre receiving bins to Miller MC800, 80 tonne/hour destemmer crushers and associated open throat mono pumps.
“Now we can do 700 tonnes a day in one shift,” David says. “And we’ve installed the Rolls Royce of electronics for reliable and smooth operation.”
David says much of the growth in recent years has been driven by Chinese entrepreneurs, leading to a buoyant market for bulk wine in Australia.
“What’s happening in China is not a boom, but a steady increase each year, which is great news for Australian wine producers because they love our product,” he says.
“Sixty-five percent of the wine that leaves Australia is now in bulk – it’s the new powerhouse of Australian wine.”
David says Riverland Vintners was once known as the worst place to deliver fruit from a truck driver’s point of view. “But now it’s known as the best because we’ve spent $20,000 upgrading the kitchen to go with the crushers,” he says. “The staff don’t mind it, either. You can’t have a winery without a decent kitchen.”
The crushers are run on an iPad. “No one over thirty can use it,” David jokes. “Graeme was a bit nervous, but it worked beautifully right from the start.”