Kaiser Stuhl - so good to share

barossa history

Kaiser Stuhl - so good to share

words by
luke rothe
>> SA Grape Growers building, Nuriootpa c1950s.

During the 1930s Great Depression one of the many industries to suffer was the wine industry.

Many local grape growers couldn’t sell their grapes, or were offered 20-40% less than the previous year.

This threatened the livelihoods and future of Barossa growers.

A scheme to start a co-operative winery was suggested, which in 1931 was the formation of the S.A. Grape Grower’s Co-operative Ltd, subsequently renamed the Barossa Co-operative Winery Ltd.

Initially six employees worked for the company. In August, 1931 the first order of export wine was recorded for 2,800 hogshead barrels all marked with the new brand name ‘Nurivin’.

To create the new winery, Mr Hoffmann offered land at Kroemer’s Crossing, Tanunda; while Mr Kaesler offered land in Nuriootpa.

A strong division of opinion was recorded between Tanunda and Nuriootpa committee members, but finally Nuriootpa was the chosen site. The first cellars were built by Juncken & Co in 1933.

>> Kaiser Stuhl Chateau constructed by C.O. Juncken Builders in 1973

The fledgling winery struggled through the depression years and was then faced with a WWII export downturn.

However the post war years created an increase in the consumption of Australian wine.

Fortified wines had dominated production, but in 1956 the Nurivin brand started producing dry reds, with most wines sold in half gallon flagons.

Also in 1956, Orlando winery revolutionised the Australian industry by marketing Barossa Pearl.

Orlando’s success led to Nurivin and other local wineries producing their own sparkling wines.

In 1958 the Barossa Co-operative Winery Ltd developed a new ‘Kaiser Stuhl’ brand, bringing with it a whole new range of wines, and a complete change in the marketing and philosophy of the company.

Wolf Blass, a 27 year old German winemaker, joined the company in 1961.

Wolf was in charge of sparkling wine production, with Pineapple Pearl and Cherry Pearl being the first ‘pop’ wines introduced under the Kaiser Stuhl label.

>> An account letterhead from 1941
>> A shop display from the 1970s.
>> Wine bottles from 1974

Kaiser Stuhl winery continued to expand in all areas, with facilities growing to increase production.

The Kaiser Stuhl ‘Chateau’ was an adventurous building project officially opened by Prime Minister Gough Whitlam on March 8, 1974. 

The Chateau building still stands proudly at the southern entrance to Nuriootpa.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II visited the Chateau on March 21, 1977, enjoying lunch and a winery tour.

Invitations were sent to over ‘500 shareholders, plus wives’ to have ‘a meal as similar as possible to that being enjoyed by the Queen’.

The dress code was ‘A Day Frock for ladies and a Lounge Suit for gentlemen.

‘However, should the day prove very hot, gentlemen may remove their coats. Ladies can make their own decision on whether to wear a hat and gloves.’

The highs of the 1970s soon faded. The Kaiser Stuhl 1980 Annual Report stated – ‘disappointing year’, ‘increased operating costs’ and ‘poor marketing returns’, foreshadowing the sale of Kaiser Stuhl to Penfolds, announced in December, 1981.

The Co-operative lasted 50 years. It produced many memorable wines including April Gold, Summer Wine and Cold Duck in the 1970s, using the marketing slogan ‘So Good to Share’.

Luke Rothe

Local Barossa historian and enthusiast
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