24/10/2006 - 22:00

Rathbones revive Xanadu

24/10/2006 - 22:00

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The wine business has bruised more than a few entrepreneurs in recent years but it certainly didn’t dissuade the Rathbone family from stepping across the Nullarbor to claim their own piece of Margaret River.

Rathbones revive Xanadu

The wine business has bruised more than a few entrepreneurs in recent years but it certainly didn’t dissuade the Rathbone family from stepping across the Nullarbor to claim their own piece of Margaret River.

Last weekend the family played host to concert goers and officially opened their refurbished restaurant at the former Chateau Xanadu winery, just south of the Margaret River township.

While many are stepping out of the wine business, the Rathbones last year shelled out as much as $25 million for the iconic asset of the ailing Global Wine Ventures Ltd, previously the listed Xanadu Ltd, which was the corporatised version of the winery founded by Dr John Lagan.

It is the fourth winery in the stable headed by agribusiness leader Doug Rathbone of the listed Victorian-based farm input giant, Nufarm Ltd.

His son, Darren, runs the winemaking operations of the venture and admits there is an advantage in the patient investment of private capital.

The family’s first major investment was Yering Station, a 50-hectare winery in the Yarra Valley that now forms the centrepiece of the Rathbone Wine Group.

“It was a very strategic decision by the family to develop a family business,” Darren Rathbone said when spoken to by WA Business News.

“No-one in the family was interested in getting involved in Nufarm. Dad wanted to create a strong self-sufficient business that left the family in a strong position.”

The 35ha Xanadu acquisition gives the group its first purchase on the west coast, and neatly fills a hole in its strategic plan.

But the move by no means fulfils the Rathbone appetite for growth in the longer term.

“We really want to get to a position where you can have one of our products in every slot on a wine list; wines that are distinct and don’t compete with one another,” Mr Rathbone said.

But, apart from the construction of a big bottling and export logistics plant at Port Melbourne, the immediate focus is to get Xanadu making those wines the family aims for – the right varieties from the right regions.

Mr Rathbone said he had been pleasantly surprised how the Margaret River icon brand remained resilient at the upper end of the market – fondly remembered despite not being seen by most consumers for some time.

“For the moment we have to get Xanadu up and performing the way we want it to,” he said.

“It seemed to lack a proper sense of strategy, while we could see potential it was not making the styles of wine we plan to make.”

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