Southcorp Wines

Southcorp Wines

Australia's largest wine company Southcorp Wines claims to be the seventh largest in the world. With sales of A$660 million (US$400 million) last year, A$313 million (US$190 million) of which were exports, it produces around 30 percent by value of all Australian wine. Spectacular international growth of its key brands, Lindemans and Penfolds, has been responsible for its 20 percent annual growth in earnings over the last six years.

Australia is probably the only nation whose largest company is attempting to make its best wine. Southcorp's commitment to quality can be seen in wines like Penfolds Grange and Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon, Wynns John Riddoch Cabernet Sauvignon and Michael Shiraz, Leo Buring Leonay Riesling, Seppelt Salinger, Coldstream Hills Reserve Pinot Noir and Reserve Chardonnay, the Devil's Lair Cabernet, plus the new white Penfolds Yattarna. Southcorp also produces many lower-priced brands like Queen Adelaide Chardonnay, Lindemans Bin 65 Chardonnay, Queen Adelaide Regency Red, Penfolds Koonunga Hill and Penfolds Rawson's Retreat. Southcorp's myriad brands cover virtually the entire spectrum of possible combinations of region, variety and price.

Penfolds produces the country's dominant range of red wines. Leo Buring is Australia's most prestigious maker of dry riesling. Wynns Coonawarra Estate is Coonawarra's most historic vineyard and makes some of its best reds. Seppelt is Australia's most substantial and seasoned maker of sparkling wines, and Devil's Lair is a leading maker of Margaret River cabernet and chardonnay. Coldstream Hills is one of the Yarra Valley's most important labels, and at Seppeltsfield in the Barossa Valley Southcorp has a unique resource of fortified wines, principally port and sherry.

Southcorp's 15,000 acres (6,000 ha) under vine makes it Australia's dominant vineyard owner and possibly the world's largest. Three-quarters of its 25 different vineyards are in South Australia, where the company is the largest owner of terra rossa soils in Coonawarra, has substantial plantings of mature vines in the Barossa Valley, and is a major owner of vineyards at Clare, Padthaway, McLaren Vale, Eden Valley and the Riverlands. It also owns vineyards in the Hunter Valley and Barooga in New South Wales; in the Yarra Valley, Elmhurst and the Murray Basin in Victoria, and Margaret River in Western Australia.

Its principal wineries are at Nuriootpa and Seppeltsfield in the Barossa Valley, and at Karodoc and Great Western, its specialist sparkling facility, in Victoria. It owns other wineries at Coonawarra and Riverland in South Australia, the Hunter Valley and Yenda (Griffith) in New South Wales, Margaret River in Western Australia and the Yarra Valley in Victoria. In 1999, these wineries crushed 247,000 tons (224,000 tonnes).
Outside Australia, Southcorp produces La Perouse wines in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France and, in the same region, acquired the James Herrick brand in 1999. In the USA, it produces Seven Peaks wines in partnership with Paragon Vineyards in the Edna Valley, and in 1997 it purchased a site for a new vineyard devel-opment near Paso Robles, California.


Unlike its key brands, Southcorp is a recent addition to the annals of Australian winemaking. Southcorp's image is largely structured around Penfolds, Seppelt, Wynns and Lindemans, each of which were very significant and substantial individual enterprises and owners of major national labels until relatively recently. In 1994 the Penfolds Wine Group became Southcorp Wines after its parent company changed its name in 1993 from SA Brewing Holdings to Southcorp Holdings. SA Brewing already owned Seppelt, Queen Adelaide and Hungerford Hill when it purchased Penfolds in 1991. That transaction brought with it Kaiser Stuhl, Wynns Coonawarra Estate, Seaview, Killawarra, Tulloch, Tollana, Lindemans, Leo Buring, Rouge Homme and Matthew Lang.

Despite an enormous number of distinctive brands, Southcorp has successfully managed to maintain the integrity and identity of each. Where Southcorp owns several distinct brands in a single region, it has steadfastly retained the individual stamp and style of each. However, with the exception of a small number of Seppelt wines, plus a few premier Lindemans Coonawarra and Penfolds Clare Estate and Magill labels, Southcorp tends to shun the single vineyard concept. The remarkable consistency in quality, style and character of Southcorp wines has contributed greatly to its success in Australian and international markets.

Key Wines

Except for the excellent Devil's Lair and Coldstream Hills chardonnays and the Leo Buring rieslings, Southcorp's best wines are reds. However, the "White Grange" project, which culminated in the release of Yattarna after just four years of experimentation, has substantially closed the gap between Southcorp and other leading Australian makers of wood-matured white wines.

There is no doubt about the deservedly high status of Penfolds reds, culminating with Bin 707 Cabernet Sauvignon and Grange. Penfolds takes pride in having resisted fluctuations in wine fashion, even though today's wines are clearly more polished and better balanced while young than ever before. At the other end of the scale, new Southcorp brands like Soho and Thirsty Fish have more contemporary looks and lighter tastes to provide a fashionable entry point for young new wine drinkers. Southcorp's collection of key Coonawarra labels is headed by Wynns, whose Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon perpetuates a rich tradition of longevity and value, while the Shiraz and Riesling represent fine value. Rouge Homme's reds occasionally flirt with more herbaceous expressions of sweet berry Coonawarra fruit, while Lindemans premier Coonawarra reds pack together sweet fruit and toasty oak.
The Hunter Valley provides Southcorp with a steadily improving collection under the Lindemans brand, plus the idiosyncratic Tulloch range, whose best wine by far is Hector Shiraz. Southcorp's McLaren Vale label has just undergone a revamp and renaming to Edwards & Chaffey, while the Tollana label is carried by a very affordable range of fine Eden Valley table wines.


The Seppelt, Penfolds, Killawarra and Seaview brands dominate the cheaper sparkling sector in Australia, while Seppelt's Great Western releases excellent premium-quality sparkling wines under the Salinger label. There's little doubt, however, that Seppelt has ceded its traditional place as the maker of Australia's best sparkling wines to Domaine Chandon and other recent arrivals into the sparkling market such as Yarrabank and Pirie.
Devil's Lair and Coldstream Hills fill some important niches for Southcorp. These cooler climate vineyards represent the cutting edge for Southcorp's winemakers, since they've been established in relatively youthful wine regions where experimentation with variety, clone and wine expression is still actively encouraged.

Even before its current program to double its red wine processing ability, Southcorp claimed to be the world's largest maker of premium red wine. Announced in late 1997, the $A405 million (US$245 million) investment over five years involves spending $A145 million (US$88 million) directly on vineyard and winery expansion, the most significant investment ever in Australian wine history. Another $45 to 50 million (US$27-30 million) is earmarked for additional oak cooperage.

With sales to North America and Europe up by 17 and 12 percent in the 1999 financial year, every red brand in its portfolio is presently in short supply. While nobody at Southcorp could expect to double the quantity of its premier labels within a mere five years, much of its investment in vineyards has taken place in the Limestone Coast region, adjacent to Coonawarra and Padthaway in South Australia's southeast corner, where red soils and consistently cool ripening seasons should produce excellent red wine.

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