Boutique wineries left out

By Charlotte Wooldridge | posted on May 21, 2020

SEVERAL boutique wineries in the Great Southern are being battered by Phase 2 COVID-19 restrictions, which permits wineries to provide tastings only when the alcohol is accompanied by a meal.

These regulations, which came into effect from May 18, will mean that almost 30 per cent of Great Southern wineries are unable to provide tastings to potential buyers.

Owner of Duke’s Vineyard Duke Ranson said that the new regulations are devastating, as wineries who only offer the cellar door experience are unable to provide a meal in conjunction with the tasting.

“All the little producers in the Great Southern won’t have any wine sales until the restriction is lifted,” he said.

“We’re permitted to open, and we’ve been open, but we can’t do wine tastings, so we won’t sell wine.”

Despite being required to undergo new health and safety training, the winery is still barred by the regulations.

“It’s absolutely diabolical,” Mr Ranson said.

“I think the crazy part is that already we have to have all our staff trained in responsible service of alcohol, and they’ve also introduced a mandatory requirement that they all do a course in COVID awareness.

“So here we are, all trained, skilled, ready and not allowed to open the doors.

“We’re a major tourist attraction for the Great Southern as a group, and 80-something cellar doors in the Great Southern are all not permitted to do tastings, so it’s a huge effect on tourism.”

The upcoming long weekend has historically been an important event on the calendar for the Ranson’s, however this year’s red wine release will most likely go unsung.

“We have a long weekend coming up which is normally our release of red wines, and last year we sold $30,000 worth of red wine on that weekend,” Mr Ranson said.

“This year we’ll sell nothing.”

Member for Warren-Blackwood Terry Redman said visitors to the South West and Great Southern come for the experience of gourmet food and world-class wines, with many people travelling to explore smaller wineries, looking to discover boutique wines.

“Without the opportunity to provide tastings, small wineries will miss out on visitors and income, at the very time they need it the most,” Mr Redman said.

“Visiting a winery to buy wine, yet being banned from having a tasting, simply does not make sense.

“It appears to be an over-reaction when larger wineries with a restaurant are allowed to seat up to 20 people with wine and food.”

Mr Ranson said that while he was able to maintain his current staff, the challenges presented by the ongoing restrictions are detrimental to the family-owned business.

“It is hurting all the local industry,” he said.

“We’ve only got three staff and we’ve kept them on, but we’re battling.

“Life’s difficult and the consideration is unreasonable, we just find it baffling, puzzling and bloody annoying.”