Vignerons monkey business

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By Kerrie Lush

According to Wikipedia, “The hundredth monkey effect is a purported phenomenon in which a new behaviour or idea is claimed to spread rapidly by unexplained means from one group to all related groups once a critical number of members of one group exhibit the new behaviour or acknowledge the new idea”.

In simple terms – it’s a strategy for social change and that’s what four grape-growing families in South Australia are trying to achieve with their new collaborative project – 100th Monkey Vignerons.

The Proud family from Sherwood Estates at Loxton, the Ratcliffs of Ricca Terra Farms at Barmera, the Saville’s at Karelia Station near Banrock Station and Liebich Family Vineyards have joined forces in a new business venture.

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Holly Ratcliff says the group produces about 14,000 tonnes of grapes in total, equivalent to about three per cent of the total South Australian crop. To put that figure in perspective, in its 2015 winegrape crush survey, Vinehealth Australia reported the Clare Valley produced 16,039 tonne in total and Wrattonbully, 16,557 tonne.

“It gives us a reasonable scale straight away, my understanding is, if you looked at us as an individual grower we’d probably be the largest single grower in the Riverland,” says Holly.

“As a group, all of a sudden we’ve got a bit of clout when it comes to marketing.

“I guess what we’re trying to do is find a real competitive advantage.”

The idea of joining forces came about when Holly and husband Ashley received a State Government grant to form a cluster group – hand selecting fellow foundation members.

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Holly Ratcliff with her children at Ricca Terra Farms

“It wasn’t about just getting any grower, it was finding growers that had an interesting story to tell or at least a story to build on,” she says.

“The Proud family were collaborative farming and I thought that was quite innovative, also I just liked the way that Brett was going about things. He was building and investing.

“The Liebich family (from Cadell) were also on a collaborative farming model so we approached them and they were hot to trot and they jumped on board.

“And then we got Mick Saville, he’s got a beautiful block, just outside of Banrock Station and he’s been working on native revegetation and looking after the wetlands and I thought, ‘that’s just a great element to have in the story where we can talk about the environment’.”

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The group will focus on alternative varieties through the Ricca Terra Farms brand and organic production through Karelia Station, while the Sherwood Estates and Liebich Family Vineyard brands will focus on new clones, high quality fruit and servicing larger customers.

There will also be an operational arm through the 100th Monkey that could provide a fee for service business and they’ve signed up some strategic partners to help them along the way.

“We don’t want to become a CCW or a Wine Grape Growers Association, we’re just a group of growers who have got together for a point of difference,” Holly says.

100th Monkey Vignerons will launch in Adelaide tomorrow (June 30).

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