BRL Hardy Ltd

BRL Hardy is the largest of Australia's wine companies remaining as a single publicly traded entity. For years, it appeared to grow despite an apparent lack of strong brands, but recently has re-invented itself by focusing on its historic regional strengths, especially in McLaren Vale and Western Australia, and more recently in Clare, Padthaway and Coonawarra. The outstanding winemaking team has created a collection of red wines second only to Penfolds and developed a fine smorgasbord from Houghton to Nottage Hill to the Leasingham Bin wines and to its now established classics like Eileen Hardy Shiraz and the Tintara reds. An emergent class of fine sparkling wines under the Arras label has joined the excellent value Sir James brand and the popular Omni.

BRL's sales have increased from A$238.3 million (US$144.6 million) in 1993 to A$463.6 million (US$281.3 million) in 1998. Exports now represent around 40 percent of revenue, major markets being the UK, Canada, the USA, Japan and New Zealand. Export sales are based on the Nottage Hill, Stamps and Banrock Station labels, with some early promise shown by the Stonehaven label from Padthaway. The company crushed 242,400 tons (220,000 t) in 1999, up from 180,200 tons (163,500 t) in 1998.

The traditional Hardy vineyard base in McLaren Vale remains the focal point of its excellent red wines, headed by the Tintara and the new Reynell reds. It contributes to the flagship Eileen Hardy Shiraz, which also contains a strong Padthaway component. Although BRL wineries are equipped with all the latest gadgetry, it takes a traditional approach for its best fruit. Around 7,200 tons (6,500 t) are processed at its Tintara winery, 2,200 tons (2,000 t) being put through open fermenters, all hand pressed in old basket presses, then hand-shovelled.

Outside McLaren Vale, BRL Hardy owns two major wineries in the Riverlands, others at Clare in South Australia, Buronga in New South Wales, and the Houghton winery in the Swan Valley in Western Australia. Its A$18 million (US$11 million) Stonehaven development at Padthaway in South Australia has an 11,000 ton (10,000 t) capacity, and a 4,400 ton (4,000 t) winery is pending in the Canberra region in the Australian Capital Territory. BRL also owns and operates the small Yarra Burn winery in Victoria's Yarra Valley and has a 50 percent stake in Margaret River's Brookland Valley in Western Australia and in Barossa Valley Estates in South Australia.
BRL Hardy's major vineyard assets its winery locations, but it also has substantial plantings at Coonawarra, Wrattonbully and Langhorne Creek in South Australia, at Frankland River, Mount Barker, Pemberton and Gingin in Western Australia and at Lake Cullulleraine at Sunraysia and Hoddle's Creek in the Yarra Valley, Victoria. Owner of 4730 acres (1915 ha) of vineyard, it is a joint venture partner in 940 acres (380 ha) and leases another 295 acres (120 ha) to complete its a total area under vine of 5965 acres (2415 ha).

The company also owns half a joint venture interest in a new Chilean wine brand, Mapocho, whose wines are made by Jose Canepa and distributed internationally through the BRL Hardy network. Overseas interests also include majority ownership of the Domaine de la Baume winery in Languedoc Roussillon, the D'instinto joint venture brand in Europe, a joint venture in New Zealand with Nobilo and National Liquor Distributors Ltd, and operating subsidiaries in Europe, USA and Canada.


The first job in Australia of Hardy's founder, English immigrant Thomas Hardy, was that of labourer for John Reynell of Reynella Farm. He later purchased the Bankside property on the River Torrens in 1853 and made his first wine in 1857. He bought the Tintara winery in 1876 and, by 1895, Hardy had become Australia's largest wine producer. Hardy's 1976 purchase of the Emu Wine Company, which owned a winery at Morphett Vale, also delivered one of its greatest long-term assets, the Houghton brand in Western Australia. With the wheel turning full circle, Thomas Hardy & Sons Ltd bought Walter Reynell & Sons Ltd in 1982, shortly thereafter moving its base to the superbly restored and refurbished Reynella complex. Ten years later in 1992, Thomas Hardy was itself bought by Berri-Renmano, creating the entity BRL Hardy Ltd.

Despite the large proportion of cask wine in its total output, BRL's renewed confidence and performance has been driven by wine quality. Its viticulturists and winemakers have been permitted to set and achieve high standards across its entire bottled range, which sets it apart from the other four large Australian producers.

Key Wines

BRL Hardy's top-end reds include those bottled under the Reynell, Tintara and Eileen Hardy labels, Leasingham Classic Clare Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz, Thomas Hardy Cabernet Sauvignon, Yarra Burn Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir and the Houghton flagship Jack Mann Red. Its selection of premier white wines, effectively Eileen Hardy Chardonnay and Leasingham Classic Clare Riesling, looks thin by comparison.

BRL's mid-market white table wines offer good value and consistency. The fine and flavor-some Hardy Siegersdorf Riesling and Houghton White Burgundy, the clean and refreshing Moon-dah Brook whites, the sumptuous and classically proportioned Crofters reds, and the Leasingham Bin series red wines are some of the best value wines under A$20 (US$12). At the cheaper end of the market are the environmentally friendly Nottage Hill and Banrock Station brands.

BRL Hardy has the quality wines and resources that would complement those of another large Australian wine producer, with the possible exception of Orlando Wyndham, that really wanted to take a dominant position in the marketplace. The only things preventing this from happening is its share price and the return it provides its current investors.

Adress: 43 Murray Street, Bowen Hills QLD 4006

Tel.: (07) 3216 1673

From "Encyclopedia of Wine"
Global Book Publishing Pty Limited 2000