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Oatley family moves on US

The Oatley family, headed by billionaire Rosemount founder Bob Oatley and his family, is tackling the US market again.

Rosemount used to sell AUS$130m of wine a year in the US.

Oatley Family Wines is releasing the Robert Oatley range – 25,000 cases worth AUS$6m – in eight US states.

A US distribution company, Robert Oatley Vineyards, has been formed to import the wines.

Oatley Family Wines is going ahead with the venture despite the current slowdown in Australian wine sales in the US, and the adverse effects of the value of the Australian against the US dollar.

‘It’s precisely these distractions that can provide us with the opportunities we seek,’ deputy executive chairman, Chris Hancock said.

Hancock said that the US move followed a better-than-expected performance in Australia by the company’s semi-premium Wild Oats and premium Robert Oatley wines, since they were first released in late 2006.

Bob Oatley founded Rosemount in 1974. With Hancock as chief executive he was instrumental in launching the Australian wine boom in the UK and the US during the 1980s.

In 2001, when Rosemount was sold for AUS$1.49m to Southcorp Wines in a reverse management takeover, it had annual sales of 4.5m cases worth AUS$390m. The US contributed a third of the total.

The Oatleys retained 250ha of vineyards at Mudgee in New South Wales.

They sold their stake in Southcorp and bought Poet’s Corner winery for AUS$15m from Orlando-Wyndham. Oatley Family Wines has since spent AUS$10m on a small-batch winemaking plant at the winery.

Written by Chris Snow in Adelaide

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