Fears over future of historic winery sites as Constellation cuts costs

  • Friday 29 May 2009

There are fears that the historic Leasingham winery site in the Clare Valley, Australia, will be sold for non-winery development.

A separate battle has also begun to stop another historic industry site, Stony Hill, the first commercial vineyard in South Australia, being turned into a housing estate.

Both properties are for sale as part of a three-winery, 23-vineyard, 350-job cost-cutting move by Constellation Wines Australia (CWAU).

Talks between Constellation and wine producers about the sale of the 116 year-old Leasingham winery stalled because Constellation retains the Leasingham brand.

‘The whole thing came to a stalemate,’ said prospective buyer Tim Adams, of Tim Adams Wines.

CWAU spokesperson, Sheralee Davies, said that staff had been advised that if the winery was not sold by the end of August, it would be closed.

She added that at least one of the four vineyards would be retained, with the future of the others undecided.

The chief executive of the Clare and Gilbert Valleys Council, Roy Blight, said that enquiries about the Leasingham site had been received ‘from a number of organisations, not all related to wine.’

An industry insider, who did not want to be named, said there was a fear that all but two heritage-listed buildings would be demolished and the land used for housing.

At Reynella, Constellation’s Australian headquarters, local politicians and community members have collaborated to try to block a proposed housing development on the 2.13ha (hectares) Stony Hill vineyard.

Constellation recently sold the site, which it says has vines which are diseased and non-productive, and Davies said a settlement was expected within the next few weeks.

Last night (Thursday) the Onkaparinga Council’s development assessment panel deferred for further consideration a land division application by the buyer after community objections on open space and traffic policy grounds.

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