Former Southcorp chief Keith Lambert has taken over the helm of New South Wales startup Cumulus Wines – and he’s going to steer well clear of deep discounts.

Lambert – who left Southcorp in February 2003 amidst lurid media speculation over sliding profits and boardroom battles – is seen as the architect of a policy of ‘deep discounting’ in supermarkets, which some consider caused lasting damage to the image of Australian wine.

Now he has teamed up at Cumulus with two other ex-Southcorp hands, head winemaker Philip Shaw and Jeffrey Wilkinson, who was president of Southcorp’s Europe division. All were at Rosemount before the ill-fated merger with Southcorp.

Cumulus Wines is Shaw’s brainchild, launched 18 months ago: a dozen reds and whites produced in NSW’s cool-climate Orange district. There are two brands, Climbing and Rolling, which have been well-received in the press.

About 100,000 cases are produced at the moment, and Lambert expects to take this up to at most 400,000 cases, he told decanter.com.

There is no question, he said, that this is very different to any kind of deep discounted wine.

‘This is an entirely different proposition. It is dry-grown with no irrigation, very low yields, good pruning. It’s a quality operation, it’s not a Riverland wine,’ he said, referring to the vast flatlands of South Australia where many of the country’s bulk wines are produced.

Lambert, who has been running an investment company in his native Canada since leaving Southcorp, will concentrate on the US and Canadian markets for Cumulus.

The intention is to cap the size of the company at 350-400,000 cases. ‘There comes a point when you are going well and you have to say, “Let’s concentrate on the quality now”,’ he said.

Cumulus Rolling and Climbing comprise Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon blends, Chardonnays, Shiraz, Cabernet, Merlot blends, and red single varietals. All are in the £6.99-£7.99 price bracket.

Written by Adam Lechmere