Do wine bottles need a design update?

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Labels, seals and boxes are all accustomed to change in the wine industry. But choice of glass bottles has seen less design innovation. Camellia Aebischer reports on a few examples where something different has been chosen.

(Left to right: Shiny Wines, Sami Odi & Brave New Wine)

The importance of having a unique brand sees many trends come and go. Some are welcome, like a tidy wax seal, but some others just won’t seem to disappear, like glitter-covered bottles of sparkling.

The wines vessel often remains the same. Glass; clear, or tinged with green. In fact, wine bottle styles have barely changed across the past hundred years. But some makers are thinking outside (or inside) the box and exploring new shapes for a point of difference.

“We bottle our wines in Calvados bottles, typically used to package French brandy,” says Fraser McKinley, of Sami Odi Wines. “I always really liked the packaging of Calvados, it kind of has this faux old-style feel.”

“[As a winemaker], you put all of your effort in to something, so you want the best for it,” he explains. “We change the labels every year but the bottle stays the same. It’s a part of our brand, it keeps us recognisable.”

 

BREAKING THE MOULD

Having a unique bottle can benefit a winery’s trademark, especially those who like to have variation in their labels. It’s also useful for brand identity in places like a bottle shop or restaurant display, where a sea of wine bottles all start to look the same.

Winemaker James Scott, of Shiny Wines, noticed the trend and decided to curb it. “I remember once, before starting Shiny Wines, I went for a walk to the shopping street to do a bit of market research. I practically had a mild heart attack seeing all the wine stacked in rows, and I thought ‘How do I make my wine stand out here?’.”

When it came to choosing a bottle for his Pinot Noir, Scott took the matter seriously. “The Pinot bottle is like a work of art, it’s very impractical. It’s about as wide as a sparkling bottle and tall as a Riesling.”

Although he has some challenges with packing and freight, he believes its artistic nature is important to the consumer experience. “If you look at it from the top it’s got this lean elegance, but from the side it’s huge and imposing and beasty. I think if someone’s spending $35-plus on a bottle of wine, I want it to be an experience for the consumer,” says Scott.

 

EXPERIENCING THE DIFFERENCE

Aside from having a point of difference on the shelf, a bottle can help to set your brand apart in a way that a label can’t.

Yoko Luscher-Mostert and husband Andries Mostert, of Brave New Wines, have seen plenty of success using a scalloped bottom, clear Burgundy bottle. “Retailers have loved it because it’s something different. People are tactile creatures and they want to touch it and pick it up,” says Luscher-Mostert.

“We weren’t specifically looking for a weirdly shaped bottle. We were just looking for a Burgundy bottle with clear glass and a Stelvin closure, which turns out to be surprisingly difficult. The supplier was reluctant, saying ‘Oh well, there is this one bottle, but it’s lightweight and has a funny punt’. But once we saw it, we loved it and thought ‘this is exactly what we’re all about’.”

Brave New Wines is a small batch winery and most of the work is done by hand, by the couple. Luscher-Mostert designs the personalised labels and the bottles have helped to solidify their brand identity as an alternative product. “The bottles can be quite polarising, but we love them,” she says.

 

THE COST OF STANDING OUT

Unfortunately, interesting shapes and proprietary bottles carry extra costs. Part of the reason that the shelves of wine stores are filled with generic bottles is due to their price point and availability.

“A typical Australian-made wine bottle might cost a buyer somewhere between 10-40 cents each, depending how large the order is,” says Fraser McKinley. Bottles imported from Europe (where most of the experimentation happens) can cost from $1 to $3.50 or more per unit. This can add up when each palette contains around 1000 bottles.

Although it’s a steep cost increase, it’s easily the best item to be flexible with according to McKinley.

“When you buy a box of corks, it arrives and looks like the size of a bag you’d take on a sports trip as a kid. Buy the same number of bottles, and you’ll get a box the size of a room. The cost of the cork is easily twice that of a bottle,” McKinley said.

Manufacturing giant Saver Glass is one of the go-to suppliers for many Australian winemakers and distillers looking to set their bottles apart. The company is based in Normandy, France, and is famed for producing the clearest glass in the world.

Because of Saver Glass’ location, bottles have to be shipped from Europe and can sometimes take months to arrive. Aside from making sure to pre-order in advance, shipping can provide all kinds of new disasters.

“Once I had the shipping container opened on arrival to Australia and all the bottles were broken. It takes about 12 weeks to get bottles from France to Australia,” says Scott. The disaster meant his cash flow took a temporary hit and that year’s rosé had to be released at the end of summer, once the new order arrived.

Luscher-Mostert and her partner missed the order window for 2016 and subsequently have had to produce that year’s vintage in typical Burgundy bottles. “(Saver Glass) only manufacture the lightweight bottles twice a year. It’s just teething problems. As soon as we could, we placed a big order for this year’s vintage so we can get back to normal.”

 

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED

Once orders are out of the way, packaging challenges can arise. McKinley has vetoed 12 packs of his signature Sami Odi Pinot Noir because of its immense weight. “To actually put it in a 12-pack is an occupational health and safety risk.” Even with the six-packs, the cardboard becomes strained quickly.

Scott avoids these issues by custom making his boxes for Shiny Wines. Brave New Wine put all of their varieties (except for the pet nat) in the same bottles – which fit in to standard boxes.

Even through all the hassle, the consensus is the same when it comes to asking if it’s worthwhile. “We’re 11 years in and it’s never occurred to us that it’s too hard,” says McKinley.

For small scale wineries like the three listed, labelling and packing is less of an issue since it’s all done by hand. For larger wineries, or those with less flexibility on the bottling line, making the switch wouldn’t be so simple. Although, some larger producers might be onto the scalloped bottom Burgundy bottle before too long. Their modern design means that the bottles are lightweight (which is better for exports), and sturdier. Luscher-Mostert has dropped a few during the hand-bottling process and says “they kind of bounce”.

A home run for Seabrook Wines

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By Gerri Nelligan

Winemaker Hamish Seabrook was determined that following his dream wouldn’t turn into a financial nightmare when he decided to develop a Barossa ‘home’ for his family brand. A fifth-generation member of the Seabrook wine family, Hamish has the industry in his blood.

Since 1878 Seabrooks have been in the wine trade, blending, importing, selling or making wine under the company philosophy of ‘sourcing top-quality grapes from the best regions of Australia’. And Hamish has made plenty of great wine from top quality grapes, including as a salaried winemaker in one of those ‘best regions’, the Clare Valley.

But that wasn’t enough: his dream was for Seabrook Wines to have physical roots, and ones that he could share with his young family.

 

A Barossa home

The first step was taken two years ago with the purchase of a 20-acre vineyard in the Barossa, east of Tanunda. An historic cottage on the property was ideal for a cellar door, so the dream was on its way.

“What I wanted to do was make wine in the traditional sense – and I wanted a piece of the Barossa as well. So for the first time now my family owns vineyards,” Seabrook said.

“I’m a believer that if you’ve got good grapes and a good patch of dirt, you’re always going to have good wine. It’s about having that complete control all the way.

“And having a cellar door for us is not a big money making machine. It’s a way to connect with people, show them what we’re doing and show them our wines.”

 

All in the timing

Seabrook left his fulltime winemaker role with Kirrihill in Clare to concentrate on his own brand and run the new tasting room. It was a risky decision in some ways, but he felt the time was right – for both him and his family.

“It’s a good time in my life right now, and it’s what (my wife) Jo and I wanted to do,” he said.

“I’ve been a winemaker in many different guises, worked for many different people, and it was either go up through the ranks working for someone else or do my own business. It just made sense timewise to do it now.

“I loved the last job I had – the challenge and the buzz of vintage, when you do so many tonnes and crazy hours. It was a fantastic job, and I had a steady and reliable income. But when you’ve got your own vineyard and you know what you’ve got to do every day, it’s really satisfying: you’re growing something and it’s your business, and that’s so much more rewarding.

“Then there’s the opportunity to turn off the machinery and go and pick up the kids, because you’re on your time not someone else’s.  If I’d waited four or five years I’d have missed out on that time with the kids, so it was a lifestyle change as well.

“I was a nervous wreck at first and scared about the future, as was Jo, but we decided that if you don’t ever try and don’t give it a go, you’ll never know.”

The more buoyant mood across the grape and wine community also helped with the Seabrooks’ decision.

“Time-wise in the industry it made sense as well. There are lot of small producers out there right now doing a lot of good things,” Seabrook said.

“In the last 10 years I’ve watched a lot of small producers show what they can do, so I figured that now was a good time for us to get out and do something too.”

 

Limiting the risk

While establishing most businesses requires some capital, Seabrook said they were careful not to take on too much debt, and therefore too much financial risk.

“Financially we’ve been fairly sensible about what we’ve done,” he said.

“A lot of the work has been respectful to the old cottage and you don’t have to spend a lot to do that. We also applied for and got both a cellar door grant and a heritage grant, which obviously helped a lot there.

“Other than that, we funded it and did the work ourselves, and that really lowers the risk.

“Having a diverse business also helps make it work: in addition to the cellar door, we have income from selling some of our grapes and I have an export company selling wines overseas. You have to have a diversity of incomes, otherwise the risk is high.

“That said, we’re like most Australians – the bank owns everything we have.”

The other risk Seabrook faced was the regulatory processes involved with setting up a cellar door in a heritage building. Luckily, the only setbacks were minor.

“We had a hiccup with trying to get our application through in the first place – it took so long,” he said.

“But council have been good to us and we really haven’t had too many problems. Working with an old cottage is always fun, of course. Ours was first built in 1854 and then built on and built on, so it’s all different levels and different roof heights, and it does have a lot of architectural issues that we need to address.

“But overall, it seems to have gone really well, and all the liquor licensing and other legislation stuff just worked.”

 

Lost … and found

Seabrook said that a physical home for the business will strengthen the brand, in terms of both the cellar door ‘face’ and the ability to better communicate the story.

“We’ve been kind of lost. I started making wine for Seabrooks in 2005 and in that time we’ve never had a home. We’d sell through distributors or over the internet, but we never had a face,” he said.

“So we definitely feel that at last we have a home for our brand.

“And while our range is still very diversified – Barossa, Great Western, Yarra Valley, Eden Valley, Langhorne Creek – and our family history really is Melbourne, it makes sense to have a home like this in the Barossa. I love the people, I love the community, and it’s a place where I love making wine. I wouldn’t be anywhere else.”

The opportunity for consumers to “meet the people who make the wine” is an important part of Seabrook’s business plan, despite the time-consuming aspect of running a tasting room.

“Winemakers all want to be there at the cellar door meeting people – and people want to meet us, to hear what we’re doing. You can make great connections and really communicate the story behind your wines; that element which makes them different,” he said.

“But if you don’t have passionate people behind the counter who believe in you, it’s the opposite – a bad experience – and with social media, all it takes now is that one time.

“That’s one reason why it’s just me here.”

The other reason the winemaker is behind the tasting bar is, no doubt, financial. In fact, Seabrook has taken on a variety of roles within the business.

“I do pretty much everything, from vineyard manager and cellar door manager to toilet cleaner,” he said.

“The cellar door’s open five days, and Tuesday and Wednesday are the days I’m in the vineyard or visiting our distribution clients, so it’s pretty full on… between 10pm and midnight I have to myself, and that’s about it.

“There are occasional days when you’re slammed with so many menial things. In the past I would have had people under me doing them but you’ve just got to get on and do it all. Some days it’s overwhelming – how am I going to get all this done?  But you just do. You juggle the smaller things and often you find the urgency is not as great as you thought.”

Taking it slowly

And while the vineyard has allowed for the Seabrook Wines’ production to expand, Hamish says there’s no urgency about that either.

“We’re not making thousands and thousands of cases but we are making some moves to grow. It’s costly but you’ve got to do it,” he said.

“And the reality is that having your own vineyard lowers your production cost – there’s no mark-up or margin in it.

“It really comes down to what a friend of mine, Tim Smith, said when I was breaking away from fulltime employment: ‘it’s scary, but you do make money because you’re forced to’.

“It gave me a lot of confidence, so we went for it. I really see it as Seabrook Wines having been in caretaker mode, and now we’ve put it in full swing.”

 

This article originally appeared in the April 2017 edition of Grapegrower & Winemaker Magazine. To subscribe please visit https://www.winetitlesbookstore.com.au/shop/australian-new-zealand-grapegrower-winemaker/.

Aldi Rose: creating a false sense of success

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By Camellia Aebischer

You may have click-bait style articles popping up in your Facebook feeds recently praising the Aldi rose that was placed as “one of the best in the world” by an award “just like the wine Olympics.”

Although Daily Wine News did cover the silver medal award, which is a great achievement for the winemaker and retailler, there are some major flaws to this claim.

The Aldi marketing team did a stellar job at publicising their award considering there hasn’t been much press from other winemakers who won Platinum Best medals, which are three levels higher than the Aldi win.

To put this in to perspective, Aldi’s Rose – named The Exquisite Collection Côtes De Provence 2016 – was among 3340 entries that were also awarded silver medals at the Decanter World Wine Awards International Wine Competition. It was also one of six wines that Aldi won silver medals for, so why the specific praise right before summer? (Hint).

That was out of a total 14,693 wines that were placed, ranging from Platinum Best, Platinum, Gold, Silver and Commended categories. These are only wines that were acknowledged, and don’t include any that had entered without success.

One last major flaw in the claim, is that unlike the Olympics, the wines judged in these competitions were only included because of their initiative to enter. There is a 126GBP entry fee plus VAT (tax) for those who are part of the European Union.

The winemaker also must arrange shipping of the wine (4 bottles to enter) to the UK at their own expense, and if they are successful in receiving a medal must pay additional fees for the stickers to place on their bottles.

Aldi have every right to talk up their success, but it seems that the credit is being unevenly distributed. Perhaps it’s time for smaller wine labels to take notes on marketing techniques.

Meet Australia’s future wine leaders

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16 talented and driven professionals from the Australian grape and wine community have been chosen to be the Future Leaders 2017.

Future Leaders is coordinated by Wine Australia in partnership with the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia (WFA) and Australian Vignerons (formerly Wine Grape Growers Australia). The Future Leaders program is designed to develop participants’ leadership capabilities and encourage innovation and thoughtful debate on the future of the sector.

The Future Leaders of 2017 are:

  • Alexia Roberts
Galvanized Wine Group (Penny’s Hill)
  • Anthony Robinson
Treasury Wine Estates
  • Chris Dent
Gorton Drive Estates
  • Chris Morrison
Sommelier/Wine Consultant
  • Claire Doughty
Yalumba
  • Gwyneth Olsen
Pepper Tree Wines
  • Marc Soccio
Wine Advisor
  • Mary Hamilton
Hugh Hamilton Wines
  • Natalie Pizzini
Pizzini Wines
  • Paula Edwards
Winegrapes Australia
  • Richard Angove
Angove Family Winemakers
  • Richard Leask
Leask Agri
  • Sarah Collingwood
Four Winds Vineyard
  • Shirley Fraser De Zolt
Byrne Vineyards
  • Simon Killeen
Simão & Co. Wines
  • Wes Pearson
Australian Wine Research Institute

Richard Leask said on learning of his selection, “I’m excited and apprehensive; the alumni list is impressive and a little daunting! I suppose it feels like just before vintage, you have some idea what you’re in for and that it will challenge you at times but you can’t wait to get into it.

“I’m hoping to discover personal leadership strengths and weaknesses and the tools to improve on both. To open up a new network of people that will keep challenging each other and the wine industry to be the best it can be.”

Sarah Collingwood agreed saying, “I’m looking forward to the Future Leaders program challenging me both professionally and personally. It’s a great opportunity for me to look up from running my business to establish new connections in the industry and explore the future of business, marketing and governance.”

Wine Australia CEO Andreas Clark said the calibre of applicants again reflected the impressive talent working in the Australian grape and wine sector. He hopes that the opportunity will bring together the emerging leaders and help establish long-term prosperity in the grape and wine sector.

“We want the best and brightest leading the Australian grape and wine community and it’s vital we support them by investing in their professional development so they can confidently lead the sector in the years to come,” said Clark.

Andrew Weeks and Tony Battaglene, the Chief Executive Officers from AV and WFA, said they were proud to once again support the Future Leaders program.

“The expression of interest from such a large and highly competent field of applicants suggest that the future of the grape and wine sector is in good hands,” said Battaglene.

Future Leaders 17 program

In a dynamic and evolving sector, this year’s program will explore new avenues in business, marketing and governance, and will also look at how global economics will shape the future.

Participants will look at new technology, how they can amplify the innovative thinking that already exists in our sector, and learn contemporary approaches to human development and commercial success.

www.winefutureleaders.com

#WineFL2017

Who has the bargaining power?

WHILE THE grape and wine supply chain waits for positive export figures to translate into a real business boost, initial reports of suggest the grape price per tonne is hovering between $370 and $400 throughout the inland regions (Murray Darling, Riverina and Riverland). This represents a slight jump up from last year’s average of about $320 a tonne; offering hope of a recovery to good returns for both grapegrowers and wineries. Daniel Whyntie reports.

Senator Nick Xenophon said the Wine Industry Code of Conduct has “less bite than a toothless Chihuahua”.

Grapegrowers spend the vast majority of their annual expenses before vintage – in fact before the December 15 date which the Australian Wine Industry Code of Conduct sets out for price notifications. And some growers remain frustrated by a either a lack of information or the restrictive nature of their contract which has last years’ low price rolling across to 2017. There were even rumours of a ‘tractor blockade’ and grower boycotts before this year’s vintage began.

Last year the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) declared that contracting practices were the most significant issue affecting viticulture in a report into the sector.
“The risk sharing weighs strongly against the growers; they find it difficult to know what price they will receive and some are only paid after delivery. It’s not the equitable sharing of risk we’d like to see in good contracting practices,” said Mick Keogh, ACCC commissioner. Continue reading

Young gun: Michael Downer

Michael Downer is the third generation of his family to work the Murdoch Hill farm, in the Adelaide Hills, but during his time within the business he has changed the focus for the family. Daniel Whyntie reports.

The family property used to be as much about cattle as it was focussed on growing vines, but Michael Downer’s Artisan Series has built on the reputation of the Murdoch Hill wines and marked a turning point in the farming business.
Downer has applied the lessons learnt from his travels and set out to create wines that would set him apart; wines that have earned him the Young Gun Of Wine ‘winemakers’ choice’ award two years running.  Continue reading

Australian wine exports: Key market snapshots

Wine Australia’s four ‘heads of market’s’ recently joined forces to present a market overview for a Wine Communicators of Australia webinar late in 2016. They examined the issues, risks and opportunities for Australia’s major export markets. Daniel Whyntie sat in to bring you the highlights of their presentations.

UK: Stop the world I want to get off

Laura Jewell MW Head of Market Europe, Middle East and Africa

Looking back across recent history, the UK market has been pretty stable – recent declines had slowed and there was growth in the retail sector and in sparkling. However, the impacts of ‘Brexit’ have meant the outlook seems to change on a daily basis. The vote to leave was unexpected and it has become very clear the UK Government had not actually planned for this outcome. Continue reading

Fortified’s fresh look

ST LEONARDS VINEYARD, an historic winery in the Rutherglen wine region, has added some colour and intrigue to its range of compelling fortified wines with the release of three HIP SIP wines.

The first wine to launch was the Tawny in April 2016 and two more wines have recently been added to the range – HIP SIP Muscat and HIP SIP Muscadelle.

Georgie James Photography

“HIP SIP was designed to inspire consumers in a creative way on the delights of fortified wine,” said Angela Brown, St Leonards Vineyard sales and marketing director.
“Providing suggestions of how and when to enjoy fortified wine has engaged our consumers.
“The range provides the ability to enjoy the wine in a creative way.” Continue reading

International bulk wine insight

The Grapegrower & Winemaker recently caught up with Denys Hornabrook, the co-founder of VINEX, the bulk wine trading exchange to discuss its development and gain an update on the current market outlook.

Q: You have recently been quoted as saying global prices are expected to rise over the next 12 months, with the precarious 2016 vintage threatening global supplies. What are the factors contributing to your view?
Denys Hornabrook: We are entering a really interesting phase where the pendulum is moving toward demand and applying price pressure. There’s now an increasing likelihood there’ll be a further tightening of global supply. Look at the constraints on what was produced in 2016. South Africa has had its worst vintage in four years, Chile its worst in five and Argentina its worst in 10. But that’s now being compounded by the US having average yields and large yield deficits throughout France and Italy, and especially Spain. Our VINEX Global Price Index which monitors the five major varieties produced around the world shows prices have already increased 21.5% since January. Sauvignon Blanc (heavily weighted by NZ) is the only variety that hasn’t increased in price.

Q: What signs are you seeing of the market responding to this potential reduced supply?
DH:
We’ve seen domestic and international buyer registrations increase to access the exchange and then sourcing listings being added to secure additional current vintage supply. Also, several pre-harvest forward contracts have been traded with buyers wanting to hedge some of their 2017 requirement. So there’s a growing sense of a shortage, and buyers’ in-tune with the market are beginning to take early longer-term positions. Continue reading

Yalumba launches $350 ‘super claret’

Australia’s oldest family owned winery, Yalumba, is set to launch a $350 Cabernet Shiraz blend. The Caley, a blend featuring both Coonawarra and Barossa fruit, honours Fred Caley Smith, the grandson of Yalumba’s founder Samuel Smith; and horticulturist who had a profound impact on the development of Yalumba’s orchards and vineyards.

the-caley

“The Caley is the pinnacle of a long winemaking journey seeking excellence – a ‘super-claret’ that rightfully honours one of Yalumba’s most adventurous sons,” vigneron Robert Hill-Smith said.
“It is the result of an unwavering commitment by Yalumba to Australia’s own unique red wine style – Cabernet and Shiraz – from the Galway Clarets of the 1940s, through the Signature and FDR 1A that started in the 60s and 70s and The Reserve that was created in the 1990s.
“I see it as a symbol of Yalumba’s perseverance and patience – an acknowledgment of the importance of time in crafting great wine.” Continue reading