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Wine Australia chief leaves as merger is prepared

Wine Australia chief executive Andrew Cheesman is stepping down as the organisation prepares to merge with the country’s Grape & Wine Research & Development Corporation (GWRDC).

Former Petaluma general manager Cheesman, who has been at the helm of the industry body since 2009, will leave ‘to pursue other opportunities within the wine sector’, Wine Australia said.

Cheesman (pictured) will stay in the role until 30 September, at which point Decanter.com understands that Wine Australia chief operating officer Andreas Clark will take over as acting chief executive in the build-up to the merger, due in July next year.

‘Andrew is a passionate advocate for the Australian wine sector and has been a key driver of change in the industry’s national organisation,’ said Wine Australia chairman George Wahby.

‘During his tenure he has transformed Wine Australia, ensuring the delivery of key services for the sector, especially during the difficult trading environment over the past few years.’

Australian wine has been hit by a number of challenges in recent years, most notably a wine and grape glut, as well as the strength of the Australian dollar, which has impacted exports.

The merger of Wine Australia and the GWRDC, accepted by Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig last December, will create a single statutory authority to support the country’s wine sector.

Between them, the two bodies have invested a total of A$33-36m a year over the last three years in research and development, market development, export advice, regulation, information and analysis.

According to the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia (WFA), which lobbied for the merger along with Wine Grape Growers Australia (WGGA), the move has received ‘widespread’ industry support.

Written by Richard Woodard

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