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Metala returns to its Langhorne Creek home


The Langhorne Creek wine brand that won the inaugural Jimmy Watson trophy 60 years ago has been returned to its original home.

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The Metala brand and associated trademarks have been bought from Treasury Wine Estates by the founding family of the famous Metala vineyard after a fifty-year hiatus involving multiple owners.

Fifth-generation vigneron Guy Adams will re-launch the brand in June with fruit grown and made into wine on site from the 2021 vintage.

The family’s 200-hectare vineyard is predominantly planted with Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon with smaller parcels of Petit Verdot, Malbec and Chardonnay.

It also features an 800-tonne capacity winery, which was built in 2001 and is also used to produce the family’s other brands Brothers in Arms and Killinbinbin.

“We are just so happy to once again be able to offer consumers the quality and authenticity of estate grown wine from the Metala vineyard,” Adams said.

The Metala property is home to the oldest family-owned Cabernet vineyard in the world and the oldest Shiraz vineyards in Langhorne Creek.

Stoneyfell’s 1961 Metala Cabernet Shiraz beat all-comers to win the inaugural Jimmy Watson trophy – Australia’s most prestigious wine prize – in 1962.

The wine was originally made on site but production shifted Stonyfell Winery, in  Adelaide’s east, in the early 1950s.

When Stonyfell was sold in 1972, Adams said the Metala brand had been not registered by his family despite them supplying the grapes and name for many years.

It instead changed hands many times over the years, eventually ending up in the stable of Australia’s largest wine company Treasury Wine Estates alongside the likes of Penfolds, Wolf Blass, Wynns and Saltram.

Adams said TWE kept making Metala branded wine but had not used grapes grown in the original Metala vineyard since 2017.

“In 2017 they told us that they were going to make it multi-regional and they stopped taking fruit from us,” he said.

“They kept using our story and our history but the fruit was coming from wherever.

“The homecoming and relaunch of the brand means that when wine lovers buy a bottle of Metala wine they will once again be getting the original, rich and full bodied Metala fruit they’ve come to expect.”

The Metala winery has had a strong export focus and produced about 70,000 cases a year before Chinese tariffs of more than 200 per cent effectively halved its orders in late 2020.

It still exports much of its wine to countries including Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Canada, the US and UK.

The Metala brands will continue to include a straight Shiraz, a Cabernet Sauvignon and a blend with a price point around $18 a bottle.

Adams said the estate wines from the 2021 vintage made under the guidance of his chief winemaker Jim Urlwin would likely start hitting shelves in June with a global launch planned for London in July.

He said the Metala wines would be aimed at the domestic and export markets.

“My family has been growing grapes since 1891 and those vines still grow today on the property so it’s fantastic news and it’s really made me proud to be able to get it back in our control.

“People will still recognise the traditional Metala label but we need to get the younger generation to start consuming it – the 30-year-olds.

“It’s been going as long as Grange has been going and it’s got a real following with the older generation but we’re a dying generation.”

Langhorne Creek is the state’s third-largest wine-producing region behind the Riverland and Barossa.

Ironically, there is no waterway called Langhorne Creek but the small township is near the Bremer River and Lake Alexandrina, which provides irrigation water and cooling summer breezes. It is named after rogue drover Alfred “The Liar” Langhorne who drove his stock across the Bremer at what became known as Langhorne’s Crossing.

Adams said there was capacity in the vineyard and the winery to ramp up Metala production and hoped would again become its flagship brand.

He said the initial response from major retailers had been positive but it could take a while to re-establish supply chains.

“Because the wine was de-ranged from their system we have to go through the whole process of getting it re-ranged, which is not a quick and easy process,” he said.

“The reality is that it’s going to give a lot of the independents a chance to have the first crack at it because they can react quickly.”

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, consumers have gravitated back towards familiar brands.

Adams said he hoped this change of thinking would benefit the Metala relaunch.

“They are so much more attuned to wanting to know the story, where the product comes from and provenance is playing a bigger role in everything we do and we just think the time is right now to push ahead and get the brand back to where it should be and hopefully it will grow into being a significant brand,” he said.

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