USA: US Mondavi keeps Hardy talking as it eyes up Rosemount

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California's Robert Mondavi Wines is discussing joint ventures with Australia's fifth largest producer, the privately-owned family company, Rosemount Wines.

Mondavi's president and CEO, Michael Mondavi and MD and winegrower, Timothy Mondavi, were in Australia last week and also held discussions with Australia's major producer, BRL Hardy.

However, it is understood that no deals are on the table between BRL Hardy and Mondavi, despite BRL Hardy's MD, Stephen Millar, having said in June that Robert Mondavi was one of several US companies with which joint venture talks were being held. Production and marketing of an Australian commercial wine and a new, super-premium Australian wine in the US were involved.

Reports of the Mondavi duo's visit were accompanied by an unconfirmed report today that Southcorp CEO, Graham Kraehe, and the MD of Southcorp Wines, Tom Park, had arrived in California with Kendall-Jackson in their sights.

The activity follows last Tuesday's announcement by Fosters' Brewing Group that it was acquiring California's Beringer Wines in a $A2.5 billion deal, setting off some speculation that rapid consolidation of the wine industry would follow.

The Robert Mondavi Wines visit is understood to have been planned before the Foster's-Beringer announcement with the company's two senior executive seen in Sydney last Thursday.

The visit was the second to Australia by Michael Mondavi in recent months. He made an extensive tour in June, taking in about 15 wineries.

The Mondavi-Rosemount talks are believed to be covering a number of joint venture options with nothing finalised.

Rosemount, founded in 1973 by the Oatley family, has sales of more than $A300m a year split equally between the domestic market, the UK and the US where it is the second biggest selling Australian brand.
Its original winery, at Denman, in the Upper Hunter Valley of New South Wales is supplemented by another, formerly Ryecroft, at McLaren Vale, in South Australia. It has extensive vineyard holdings in the Hunter Valley, Coonawarra, McLaren Vale, Langhorne Creek, Mudgee and Orange and in the Adelaide Hills.

Robert Mondavi, which had sales of $US427.7m in 1999-2000, already has several joint ventures with overseas companies, including France's Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Italy's Frescobaldi, and Chile's Vina Errazuriz.

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