Mike Hayes (Director Vineyard and Winery Operations, Sirromet Winery). Photo supplied: USQ Photography, David Martinelli.
Mike Hayes (Director Vineyard and Winery Operations, Sirromet Winery). Photo supplied: USQ Photography, David Martinelli.

Adapt or die: Winemaker speaks out after empire’s collapse

GRANITE BELT wineries continue to fight back against the tide of despair brought on by a series of varied weather events.

If drought weren't enough, hail late last week battered wineries in the Ballandean area.

Sirromet Wines lost up to 70 per cent on two blocks.

Despite the constant hurdles, the Queensland wine giant are confident of financial growth going forward.

With news that Australia's sixth largest wine company, McWilliam's Wines, had been forced into voluntary administration last week, Sirromet's growth is a positive for an industry doing it tough.

"It's so sad to hear about McWilliam's because they are one of the foundation, large companies of the country in wine, when Australia began wine," Sirromet's Director of Viticulture and Chief Winemaker Mike Hayes said.

"141 years of tradition gone.

"I'm not sure what happened there. It's getting harder and harder to make a dollar. There's a lot of competition in around that top end.

"Probably a combination of the drought hasn't helped," Mr Hayes said.

McWilliam’s Wine Group chairman Jim Brayne (middle) with other winemakers.
McWilliam’s Wine Group chairman Jim Brayne (middle) with other winemakers.

For Hayes and Sirromet, it has been a case of adapting to a shifting industry.

"You've got to change. If you don't change you'll perish," he said.

"We're faring very well. Sales are exceptionally strong - especially over the Christmas and into the New Year break sales were good.

"Visitation to the winery is increasing every year and exports are maintaining a steady rate.

"The old, fabled, 'lets oak the wines for 12 months, put into a bottle and drink them in 5 years' has all gone.

"People are wanting more alfresco styles of wine.

"You've just got to stay up with the Joneses and globally speaking, we're changing."

But after a 12 months to forget, Mr Hayes said he feels for smaller wine producers.

"I fear for some of the drought conditions for some of the younger producers and smaller producers here.

"They can't really afford to lose a vintage.

"I know a few of the cellar doors have said they've been deathly quiet.

"What we've got to try and do is be collegiate and stick together and unite and we'll get through this," he said.

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