01/02/2005 - 21:00

Langes still connected to Alkoomi

01/02/2005 - 21:00


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Frankland River pioneers Merv and Judy Lange have received plenty of offers for their 110-hectare vineyard but they aren’t interested in selling Alkoomi Wines just yet.

Langes still connected to Alkoomi

Frankland River pioneers Merv and Judy Lange have received plenty of offers for their 110-hectare vineyard but they aren’t interested in selling Alkoomi Wines just yet.

The pair will celebrate 30 years in business this vintage, and while the operation has grown from producing 250 cases of wine to 90,000 cases a year, Mr Lange says there’s plenty of growth left and plenty more to do.

Alkoomi is one of Western Australia’s top 20 wine producers.

“At the moment about 70 per cent of our wine is sold in Australia and 30 per cent is international, ideally we would like that to be 50:50 and at the same time increase the tonnage,” Mr Lange says.

“It’s not that we would neglect the Australian market, we just want to grow.”

When the Langes established Alkoomi in 1976 the Frankland region, in WA’s Great Southern, was considered so remote they established a cellar door in Albany, which still operates today.

“It was a very traditional farming region with sheep, cattle, grain,” Mr Lange says. “We were the first winery in Frankland River and we were alone for about 15 years. Now they’ve surrounded us.

“The idea for Alkoomi back then was to build up the operation into something that crushed 50 tonnes of grape and something like 3,000 cases. We just kept moving the goal posts.”

The winery has a 1500-tonne capacity and also crushes wine for a handful of other wineries in the area.

It also has a cellar door on-site.

Growing the business into a renowned producer of quality wines was mostly about the marketing, according to Mr Lange.

“Marketing is difficult but I have a bit of a saying. It’s broken into three parts. I give one point out of 10 points to growing the grapes. I give two out of 10 for turning the grapes into wine and the other seven out of 10 for marketing it,” Mr Lange says.

“You just have to go out there and sell the product and to a degree sell yourself. You have to be passionate about your product and be honest and modest. I think you build up a good rapport with people and they sell the product for you.

“What I would say is that in the last 30 years of selling wine it has taken an awfully long time to become pretty good at marketing. I would say it took the first 15 years of selling to learn it and I think it’s very difficult for new wineries.

“There are so many coming out and I’ll tell you, we fight like hell to keep our shelf space. We’re not about to let someone come on in.”

Alkoomi is enjoying the spoils of wine tourists looking further afield than the Margaret River region.

“It’s really picked up. I would say in the last five years its grown 300 per cent,” Mr Lange says.

“There are people who are selling up the holiday house in Margaret River and heading out here.

“I don’t think it will be the next Margaret River.

“There are about four or five sub-regions in The Great Southern and Frankland is the biggest. I think if anything we will be like Coonawarra in South Australia.  I would love for it to become like that.”

Alkoomi first exported wines 15 years ago and its brand is now sold in 18 different countries.

Mr Lange says there was potential to expand exports into Germany, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.

“We also have good rapport in the Asian market and we market to most Asian countries like Singapore, Hong Kong, and Thailand. I think Japan also has potential.”

And while the Langes could be forgiven for thinking of passing on the business to their children, Wayne and Sandy who work at the winery, they’re still having far too much fun.

“What I really enjoy is being in an industry where you are still in a business where you can plant the grapes, produce a harvest and then turn it into wine and then sell it,” Mr Lange says.

“There’s not too many businesses where you can do that. These days you are one part of the chain.”


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