Boom and Bust – 1970

Barossa Vintages - 1970s

Aggressive promotion by the Australian Wine Bureau and its director Len Evans has at last stimulated consumer demand and it is red wine from the Barossa that the newly urbane trendsetters of the 1970s want. Many cash-strapped old family wineries in the Barossa are unable to gear up quickly enough for the boom and reluctantly sell out to foreign multi-national grocery companies such as Reckitt and Colman (Orlando), Dalgety (Krondorf and Saltram) and Tooths (Penfolds).

These companies introduce greater efficiency into the industry with mechanised grape harvesting and drip irrigation to guarantee consistent production. There is also less loyalty to the growers of the Barossa and without today’s strict regional integrity laws, cheaper fruit is sourced from the irrigated Riverland but still labelled Barossa.

The first ‘bag-in-a-box’ wine container is invented in 1971 by David Wynn (and is popularised by Orlando as the Coolabah Cask in 1974) and Wolf Blass starts his own winery winning the prestigious Jimmy Watson Trophy in 1974, 1975 and 1976. However, the red wine boom ends abruptly in 1975 as consumers swing again, this time to fruity white wines such as “Moselle” and Chardonnay.

By 1978 the Barossa faces a serious red wine glut and when multi-national Dalgety tells Saltram winemaker Peter Lehmann not to buy any fruit, he rebels by creating a grower pool, processing the fruit and on-selling it as table wine on their behalf. He repeats this in 1979 then leaves Saltram to start his own Masterson label (later to become Peter Lehmann Wines).

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