As the new millennium dawns the Barossa is at the crest of an unsustainable wine collector-driven tsunami. Some of the rarest Barossa wines sourced from low-yielding old vineyards fetch as much as $1000/bottle at US auction houses, fuelled by reviews from influential critic Robert Parker, and some grape-growers are receiving a hitherto undreamed of $10,000/tonne for old vine fruit. Then September 11, 2001 re-focuses the world’s attention back to home and hearth, and American wine collectors start drinking rather than expanding their cellars. Not only do inflated wine and grape prices crash but the large publicly listed global corporates, which have been growing market share by gobbling up historic wine labels through the 1990s, now start a discounting frenzy. Coupled with a global oversupply of wine caused by non-strategic planting and changing consumption trends, and a monopolised retail sector, the national industry is plunged into unprofitability. As the Barossa concludes the first decade of the 21st century the wheel has turned full circle – fifth and sixth generation growers tighten their belts and large corporate wineries look to leave the industry as shareholders scream for dividends. Despite this downturn, the small to medium wineries who have built a brand in the last two decades, who have evolved their wine styles – perhaps using more subtle French oak or experimenting with varietal blends – and who have remained loyal to their growers continue to be successful. The public companies are going, the speculators are gone, all replaced by a new breed of 30 and 40 somethings – sons and daughters of the “revolutionaries” of the 1980s – who are committed to wines of integrity and provenance. And so the Barossa is reborn again.
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