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Sheppard joins miner

WINEMAKER Mark Sheppard has emerged from the disappointment of WA wine venture Vincorp to play a new role with miner come dot.com Wells Gold Corporation.

Mr Sheppard’s recent work with Swan Valley producer West Swan Wineries during the last vintage resulted in him ending up with a stake in Wells Gold when the winery was bought by the mining company in November.

He said the company had a number of different strategies for West Swan, including supplying the Liquor-home.com joint venture between Wells Gold and West Coast Liquor.

His wine is already being sold through that arrangement under the Partners label in 1.5 litre magnums.

“We will be making wine almost on demand,” Mr Sheppard said.

“Particularly for white wine we will hold batches of juice virtually on ice so we can maintain that fresh taste readily.”

West Swan will also be making wines for its own Swan Valley centre across the river from Houghton, which will aim to offer a unique food and wine experience for visitors.

The company is planning to build a 500 tonne winery and restaurant complex following this 100 tonne vintage, which will be produced from state-of-the-art machinery installed in the old Taylor Bros packing shed.

The project is a long way removed from Mr Sheppard’s Vincorp days where he was managing director and winemaker for the listed company before resigning in 1999 after almost three years at the helm.

Vincorp’s strategy was based on the concept of organically-produced wine, but Mr Sheppard said he battled a high level of ignorance about the wine industry at board level when many of the subsequent decisions regarding strategic direction were taken.

“Directionally the company was not heading anywhere near the direction I considered appropriate,” he said.

Vincorp’s failure in the European market resulted in a number of key asset sales last year and the remnants of the company are now subject to a takeover bid from Simon Gilbert Wines.

Mr Sheppard said the experience had not turned him off the corporate scene but he was focusing on winemaking.

“For the time being I am concentrating on the nuts and bolts rather than the blue sky,” he said.

But he has not forgotten the organic wine strategy which he will quietly work on.

“That is the holy grail for me, to put the whole package together,” he said.

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