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Winemaking changes at Southcorp

Published:  23 July, 2008

by Max Allen

PHILIP SHAW, the new chief winemaker at Southcorp in Australia, has instituted a radical shift in the winemaking structure of the company. Fiona Donald, previously senior winemaker at Penfolds, is now in charge of the company's "central region" (Barossa, Clare Valley, etc), while Paul Lapsley, previously winemaker at the Southcorp-owned Yarra Valley winery Coldstream Hills, is now in charge of the "regional wineries" (Coldstream and Devil's Lair, over in Margaret River), but will be based at Seppelt's Great Western winery. Rosemount winemakers Charles Whish and Andrew Koerner have taken charge of winemaking in McLaren Vale and Rosemount's Denman winery in the Upper Hunter respectively. In the latter's case, this may cause the most disruption, as it means much of the grape processing that previously took place in the Lower Hunter will be moved north. Most dramatic, though, is the shift in responsibility for John Duval and the retirement of Ian McKenzie. Previously chief red and fortified winemaker for the entire Southcorp empire, Duval is now to focus on the top end of the Penfolds portfolio, while McKenzie, previously chief sparkling and white winemaker for Southcorp, has chosen this time of great change to take retirement slightly earlier than he thought (he is 59 and will remain as a non-exclusive consultant for the next two years). McKenzie is not the only senior Southcorp person to go. Bob Carson, general manager of Southcorp's Victorian operations, has also chosen to take early retirement, while Neville Falkenberg, Southcorp group oenologist, along with most of the Penfolds white wine- making trial bin team that developed Yattarna Chardonnay, have been laid off. There is also great uncertainty over the future of the Lindemans and Tulloch's winemaking operations in the Hunter Valley. Ninety members of staff have been laid off at a cost of $A6.3 million, mostly from middle and senior management. According to Southcorp's global marketing director, Chris Hancock, more people are likely to go, although the "losses will be pretty minimal".