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WINE V


irtual wineries, where wine is produced off- site with shared facilities, have been around for nearly two decades and continue to


grow in popularity. One of Australia’s successful virtual wineries is Ulithorne, headed by the passionate and award-winning Rose Kentish. Ulithorne is the name of the McLaren Vale vineyard


Kentish and her husband bought in 1997 from his family, the Harrisons – which includes Stephen Harrison, one of the founders of the IFOA. The vineyard was sold at the end of 2006 but


Kentish still gets first option on the fruit, and she and her family moved to an old flour mill in Middleton, about 30 minutes south of McLaren Vale, where her cellar door is now housed. “Owning a vineyard is no longer an essential part


of making wine,” she says. “Many people see them as one and the same – every vineyard has a winery and every winery has its own vineyard. But the two are quite different. Someone can be an accomplished grape grower and not make wine, and many top winemakers have no interest in being a farmer, which is essentially what you become if you own and run a vineyard.” She says when it comes to being in the wine


industry, there are three different categories: someone who grows grapes but doesn’t make wine, someone who grows grapes and makes wine on the property, and someone like her, a winemaker who doesn’t own the infrastructure and instead uses a winery’s facilities. “A lot of winemakers like me use other good


facilities. For me, I couldn’t justify buying a winery. Apart from the enormous financial cost, there is the cost to the environment to consider,” she says. While Kentish and other virtual winery owners


may not pick the grapes themselves and spend their downtime strolling through the vineyards, Kentish says there still is a romantic side to the process. “It’s wonderful to be able to enjoy what you are


investing in. There are plenty of great choices, but they cannot compare to a glass of wine that you produce yourself,” she says. When someone decides to enter the wine industry,


whether it be buying a vineyard, a winery or both, they are often buying themselves a lifestyle. This is something of which Kentish says they need


to remind themselves when the money doesn’t start flowing in. “Making wine is an extremely expensive process. A good French wine barrel is about $1300 each, and I have 70 barrels on the go,” she says. “You may make it in 2001 but not sell it until 2005, so it is a four-year turnaround.” There are also other factors that must be considered.


Growing grapes is at the whim of Mother Nature, and making wine fluctuates with the economy. “People won’t stop drinking wine during bad economic periods, but the price they are willing to pay will drop. Instead of the


$50 bottle they would get in the past, they will buy a $20 bottle,” says Kentish. “I do premium wines, so I get hit hard when this


happens.” The wine industry is also very competitive, especially


at the higher end. “In Australia, customers are spoiled for choice.


Australians are also well-educated about styles. People paying $53 to $60 for a bottle usually know wine,” she says. “I have been doing this for about 11 years and am just starting to get runs on the board.” When investing in wine, Kentish says consideration


needs to be given to how it can fit in with existing investments and businesses. “This can be taking clients to their own winery, or having their own wine at functions and using it as a branding tool, with the label advertising the core business. “The winery may not make a lot of money but


offer benefits for other businesses, as well as lifestyle benefits. The bottom line is not the only thing to look at with wine.”


For more information on Ulithorne and their vintages, visit www.ulithorne.com.au


FAMILY OFFICE: ASIA TOMORROW 121


LIFESTYLE INVESTMENTS


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