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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Max Allen

Australia's National Wine Centre in Adelaide is set to close barely a year after opening its doors, with both the state government and the Winemakers' Federation of Australia (WFA) citing insurmountable financial problems and lower-than-expected attendance figures as reasons for the failure. This is no surprise to many in the industry. The A$40 million showpiece visitors' centre was controversial from the start: the centre's location in a quiet corner of Adelaide's Botanic Gardens and its imposing, unfriendly exterior alienated many locals; budget blowouts became a hot political issue; and many Adelaide residents resented having to pay the entrance fee when they are virtually surrounded by free-to-visit wineries. In June this year, a newly-installed state government attempted to distance itself from the controversy by leasing the operation to the WFA for a peppercorn rent of A$1 a year. But even that deal wasn't enough to save the centre: on 1 October, the WFA handed the operation back to the government, claiming that it, too, wasn't prepared to lose the millions of dollars required to keep the Centre open. An insolvency expert has been called in and is expected to deliver a report at the end of October suggesting possible future uses for the centre. In the meantime, already-booked events will be catered for.