Australian wine giant BRL Hardy has gained a presence in the important Barossa Valley region of South Australia, with the opening today of a A$24m Barossa Valley Estate (BVE) complex.

BVE is a joint venture with some 80 Barossa grape growers, with Hardy controlling a 50% stake.

BVE's general manager Bruce Richardson said today that the new winery facility, which will cost A$24m when complete, provided the company with significantly expanded sales opportunities in the future.

He said: "By 2008, our production capacity will grow from 3,000 tonnes to a planned maximum output of 9,000 tonnes per annum. This will enable us to target sales export growth from 50,000 cases currently to around 250,000 cases over the next three years - mainly to the UK and USA."

BRL Hardy managing director Stephen Millar said the BVE move to Barossa Valley was an important step forward for the company and a great outcome for local growers.

For the past 16 years, BVE's 80 grower members have been transporting their grapes from the Barossa Valley to the company's Angle Vale winery north of Adelaide.

BRL Hardy purchased a 50% stake in BVE in early 1999, a move that helped BVE take its first step back into Barossa Valley with the purchase of the Marananga site later that year.