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Decline of family-owned wineries

Last updated 15:10 18/04/2013

KAT PICKFORD

Derek Flynn

Capturing legacy: Marlbororough entreprneur Allan Scott has been reflecting on the trials and tribulations of 40 years in the wine industry.

Derek Flynn

Allan Scott, regarded as one of the pioneers of Marlborough wine, says that the corporate-dominated New Zealand industry is making it harder for family-owned wine businesses like his to survive. But the founder of Allan Scott Family Winemakers told a private gathering yesterday that despite the challenges he was determined to keep his business in the family for as long as possible.

Mr Scott, celebrating his 40th year in the industry this year, shared the ups and downs of building his business with about 50 people at the BNZ Partners' Speaker Series at the Marlborough Convention Centre yesterday.

He had come a long way since he started out removing fences and aggregating land to plant the region's first grapes in the Brancott Valley in 1973, he said.

"It was a time of great learning, but there was a lot of suspicion . . . There were all sorts of theories that the wine industry wouldn't last."

The "birth" of the Marlborough wine industry did not happen until 1985, when the the Labour Government subsidised a grape pull, replacing varieties such as mueller thurgau with more "sensible" varieties, such as sauvignon blanc and chardonnay.

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Mr Scott, who planted his own grapes in 1975, developed his wine business in 1990. "I couldn't say I've ever fallen in love with the wine industry, it's just something that I always thought would fit nicely with the lifestyle I could see myself leading."

Mr Scott's children had always been closely involved with the business, and he hoped his young grandchildren would also want to continue the legacy, he said.

"I truly believe in remaining a family business, a local business and I've tried to keep it that way, but the fraternisation of the wine industry is making that very hard," he said.

"I don't think people realise what a large percentage of wineries are corporate-owned, and how few family-owned wine businesses there are.

"With a bit of luck, I hope we can survive, but it's getting harder and harder every year."

Greater collaboration with other Marlborough family-owned wineries could help buffer them from the increased competition from their corporate counterparts, he said.

He was excited about the future of Moa Brewing Company, which was founded by his son, Josh Scott, and floated on the stock exchange last year.

"And with three or four other great brewers based in Marlborough exporting beer, who knows what the future holds for them," he said.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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