By Andy Young
Following a meeting with the Australian Liquor Stores Association, TheShout has spoken to Jeff McWilliam regarding McWilliam’s Wines role in purchase of The Wine Society.
Last month TheShout reported that a consortium called Australian Wine Finance is looking to purchase The Wine Society and that McWilliam’s has a small shareholding in that group. Then last week we reported on a meeting between McWilliam and ALSA in which he said the winemaker has no plans to move into retailing. And McWilliam has now told TheShout that the company is “solely and absolutely” focused on winemaking.
McWilliam told TheShout: “Our business is solely and absolutely focused on trying to produce, quality wines and building our brand equity around the three core brands. Then we are focusing on operational efficiencies, so the piece in Western Australia and the Margaret River wine production was an operational efficiency investment that we made. But that investment was made four years ago, and the majority shareholder of that business is Peter Fogarty.
“So The Wine Society is Peter’s move, he’s identified this and we don’t have anyone in our business involved and we haven’t been looking at any of it. We have sold wine to The Wine Society in the past and we will probably do that in the future as well, but that is as far as the relationship goes.”
McWilliam also said that there are no plans for any preferential treatment to be given to McWilliam’s Wines by The Wine Society and that the Society was not a key focus for the winemaker.
He added: “I understand that the intention is for The Wine Society to continue to have their wine panel in place and keep all the rigour around their wine selections.
“We have got some real core focuses in our business and the recent accolades we’ve received for some of our brands and being announced as Winery of the Year [at the 2017 Halliday Wine Companion Awards], at Mount Pleasant is the stuff that we have got to be driving.
“And at the Sydney Royal Wine Show we won some awards under the Evans & Tate brand and those awards are the culmination three years' hard work and getting the production side of things right. We’ve given Matt Byrne [Evans & Tate’s senior winemaker] the environment to make exceptional wines.”
Jeff McWilliam was appointed as McWilliam's Wines' CEO in March this year, replacing outgoing CEO Robert Blackwell.