29/05/2007 - 22:00

Galafrey thrives despite environmental, personal challenges

29/05/2007 - 22:00

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There were just a handful of wineries in the Mount Barker region when former IT professionals, Ian and Linda Tyrer, established Galafrey Wines 30 years ago.

Galafrey thrives despite environmental, personal challenges

There were just a handful of wineries in the Mount Barker region when former IT professionals, Ian and Linda Tyrer, established Galafrey Wines 30 years ago.

They had returned to WA after careers in computing in London and Melbourne to join the early pioneers of viticulture.

The Tyrers joined Alkoomi Wines, Goundrey Wines and Plantagenet Wines as the region’s first producers.

This month, Mrs Tyrer and her daughter, Kim, are celebrating the business’s 30th anniversary, four years after Mr Tyrer lost his battle with cancer.

Ms Tyrer says she has experienced “almost everything you can in the wine industry” during the past three decades.

“Hail that wiped out the 1989 crop,” she remembers.

Galafrey’s vineyards also fell victim to floods, snow, droughts, “the dreaded vegetable weevil”, snails, locust, and birds.

The winery has even coped with cyclone Alby, which swept through the state’s South West corner in 1978.

More recently, Ms Tyrer says, the winery has battled against the “dominance of liquor store market and the famous wine glut”.

And while many things have changed, including a shift to Albany in 1984 only to return Mount Barker in 1992, the winery still maintains a hands-on approach, she says.

Galafrey’s vines are not irrigated, which Mrs Tyers says is unusual in these days of mass commercial production.

Galafrey prefers low-yielding wine crops with small berries.

That, of course, limits the volume, but Mrs Tyrer says having smaller fruit enhances the intensity of flavour with most of the colour and tannin of the grape being concentrated in or near the grape skin.

One of the biggest changes of the past 30 years has been the amount of tax wineries are forced to pay.

“In 1986, the government started taxing wine with a 10 per cent sales tax,” Mrs Tyrer says.

“Then, over the years, the tax rose and stands at a 29 per cent wine equalisation tax, plus, 10 per cent GST which totals at 41.9 per cent tax on wine.”

Another change is the increase in visitor numbers to The Great Southern, according to Mrs Tyrer.

The increasing tourist numbers led to Galafrey shutting its cellar door facility in Albany in 1997 and concentrating on sales from its Mount Barker property, which was attracting more visitors.

Galafrey has also been joined by numerous other wineries in the region.

Mrs Tyrer told Gusto The Great Southern was crushed about 4,500 tonnes of grapes in 1999 but has more than doubled to 10,000t of grapes.

She says there are now about 39 labels in the region.

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