Out of the Dark – 1980
In a knee-jerk bureaucratic response to the grape oversupply, the South Australian Government introduces a Vine Pull Scheme, paying growers to remove unproductive vines and exit the industry. The unintended consequence is the destruction of a treasure trove of 100 year old pioneer-planted Shiraz and Grenache vines and the heightened risk that this historic agricultural region will be swallowed up by housing developers and sub-dividers.
Doomsayers predict that the Barossa will be only fit for vegetable growing by the end of the century and the regional grape crush starts to decline. Fortunately a small band of experienced winemakers (and in some cases frustrated grape-growers turned winemakers) follow Peter Lehmann’s lead and start their own small wineries – St Hallett, Rockford, Bethany, Grant Burge, Charles Melton, Heritage, Willows Vineyard, Elderton are a few of the names which open cellar doors during this crisis.
This is a massive structural change which has a long-term impact on grape and wine prices. Once a region historically dominated by a few large, slow moving national and international companies, there is now a vibrant mix of dozens of small entrepreneurs. They initiate demand for old vine fruit that has been undervalued for years, create exciting new labels and products and re-kindle tourist interest in the region’s food and lifestyle.