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or put simply… Harvest Wines is an Australian grower cooperative from Northern Adelaide Hills. We work with the local agricultural experts to provide an opportunity to create wine in a profit share model that benefits the grassroots of our industry
Our winery and our region…
Unico Zelo is based in the Northern Adelaide Hills, where it’s approximated that 70% of all ‘Adelaide Hills’ branded wine is grown. In our alpine ‘subregion’ – there are 2 wineries. Only 2! We’re one of them. If you were to consider the amount of fruit grown here, and the average size of the typical South Australian winery, there should be close to 300 operating brands in this geographical location.
The growers in the Northern Adelaide Hills area are large – and they typically have some pretty large wineries as customers from satellite wine regions. These customers have a particular method of dealing with growers. They contract out the vineyards, own the fruit and can determine what happens with the crop each year. Whether that means they have the option to buy or reject the fruit each vintage. Farmers are left with an uncertainty as to whether they will be able to cover their costs each year. This also acts as a deterrent in farming which has an impact on South Australian fruit production.
All of this hasn’t served our local growers all too well; especially through a spate of tough ‘grower’ vintages:
• 2011 – Severe Rain – 80% downgrade in price.
• 2012 – Flow-On Effect of 2011 – 50% reduction in yield. 0% reduction in price.
• 2013 – Severe Frost – 30-60% reduction in yield. 15% reduction in price.
• 2014 – Erratic Weather for Stone-Fruit Harvest – No Pollinators – 40-70% reduction in yield. 15% reduction in price.
• 2015 – the rains finally came and gave fruit to a bumper crop. Most growers were to see most of their loans paid off, when at the last minute – the Northern Adelaide Hills was hit with one of the worst South Australian bushfires in recent memory. If the fires didn’t singe the vines, the berries were affected by smoke taint – unfit for winemaking – many saw a 100% reduction in yield, and have since closed up shop under financial duress.
This doesn’t mean that the wines from these vintages are bad – 2012, 13 and 14 were some of our all-time best vintages! But only from the winemaker’s perspective…
Does That Mean This Is All 2nd-Grade Fruit?
Absolutely not! The wines have to stack up, they’ve got to be good…
We also run a distillery under Applewood Distillery – we can offer to growers a third pathway to market, purchasing fruit that isn’t suitable for Harvest (at a profit to the grower), and turning it into non-perishable, high-quality spirit that can be used for other beverages we craft, or even on-sold to cleaning, automotive or cosmetics industries… it’s all part of a larger system
How does our Harvest Wine Grower’s Co-op work?
We aim to change the hardships for growers in our region by creating Australia’s only wine production co-op. Any grower in our sub-region (5km radius around our winery) can be a part of the Harvest Grower’s Co-Op.
Instead of selling their grapes for bottom-dollar, they donate them to the Harvest label, and we donate in kind – winemaking, branding, bottling, distribution, sales and marketing. Then we deliver back 50% of the profit. The only bills that are split is the packaging – but only at the point of payment: so no cashflow detriment.
What do the farmers receive from the Co-op?
Currently, growers in our area average between $900 to $1500 per tonne with an approximate cost of growing between $600 to $1000 per tonne depending on the vintage.
The Harvest Wine Grower’s Co-op project (and we’ve proven this over the last 12 months) – we’ve been returning to our growers between $4500 to $5500 per tonne for their grapes, of which between $3500 to $4500 is profit.
Our growers are now incredibly sustainable and not at the whim of large single customers that dictate the rules to them. All they have to do – is what they do best – grow bloody good grapes. Except now they can invest in better equipment, staff and even expand their assets.
What do we do with our share?
To date we’ve issued $30,000 worth of grower-first investment initiatives – paying it forward for growers to re-plant to sustainable Italian varieties for our future of wine production in Australia.
Why Italian varieties? They are better for the Australian landscape and climate as they essentially can be rain fed. Because of this initiative, we have now established multiple hectares of Fiano and Nero d’Avola in the Adelaide Hills and Clare Valley.
And in as little as 12 months, we have managed to forge stronger bonds and relationships than other companies have done over the course of a decade or more… that in itself is worth the time and effort.
We’re proud to be offering an opportunity to support our community and produce amazing wines while we are at it
Brendan & Laura Carter