I can only imagine the determination Tom Angove had when he worked to develop the wine cask, or, as he preferred to call it, the wine soft pack or bag-in-box.
It was 1965. Despite all the nostalgia about the ‘swinging 60s’ it wasn’t exactly a progressive moment in Australian history… The Seekers’ I’ll Never Find Another You was topping the charts; Dawn Fraser had just been banned from all amateur competition for 10 years; women weren’t allowed in public bars in Queensland; and police had raided a Melbourne bookshop and seized copies of The Trial of Lady Chatterley.
Yet at this time, from the sun-baked Riverland, came an international innovation. Tom’s son and successor in the Angoves wine business, was just 18 at the time. John couldn’t have asked for a better mentor than his father.
But not every aspiring winemaker, vineyard manager or CEO is lucky enough to have their own father as their mentor. Even within strong family businesses sometimes dad isn’t around anymore as a sounding board, or shoulder to lean on.
I happened to meet Eliza, Angela and Nicholas Brown from All Saints Estate while they were in the Barossa in 2014, “getting away” from their daily duties to meet with their mentor. The three Brown siblings represent a branch of the fourth generation of a significant Aussie wine family, but since their father died in 2005, they’ve had to look around for wine business mentors.
Which is why they were meeting with Brian Walsh, he was helping them to look at the structure of their business. Eliza called it a “three-day retreat”.
“We went to Brian because he can an overall view on our business direction, brand, business structure and refining our wine styles,” she said.
“Brian brings clarity to a decision we need to make, but doesn’t tell us what to do. It’s a fine line of giving pros and cons of all situations, also conscious of having a backup plan if the decision doesn’t go as planned.
“We particularly love his very dry sense of humour.
“Brian is, of course, paid for his time which we negotiated upfront. We prefer to have face-to-face meetings, which have been sporadic over the past year due to schedules but over the next 12 months there will be more structure involved.”
Eliza said she has dealt with different mentors, depending on the situation, since her father hasn’t been around. Some have not been the right fit, while others were incredibly helpful, like “one of our current advisors Dominic Pelligana from KPMG Melbourne, who has built his reputation around family business”.
“If you don’t look around for alternative points of view you end up with quite a stale view of the world,” Eliza said.
It’s almost been 50 years since Tom Angove received a letter to confirm the patent for his bag-in-box. The world’s a different place. We’ve got Five Seconds of Summer belting out She Looks So Perfect instead of The Seekers’ harmonies; the sporting controversy of the day involves peptides and sports scientists, not a ratbag stealing a flag; the ‘schoolies’ event on the Gold Coast is presenting Queensland authorities with lots more headaches than letting women into the front bar ever did; and apparently three million copies of the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy have been sold in Australia.
But where’s the modern Australian wine invention making its mark around the world? Perhaps it is being doodled in a vintage-intake notebook at the moment. Maybe there’s a young winemaker waiting for the right time to tell her boss about an idea she has.
And while I think about the ‘right time’, how did the Brown siblings originally get connected with Brian?
“We have always admired Yalumba and the Yalumba story, I had met Brian through the Future Leaders initially,” Eliza said.
Well guess what? The Future Leaders is about to kick into gear again. The program is currently seeking applications from people “with open, creative, inquisitive minds; early to mid-career emerging leaders who have demonstrated their commitment to the wine sector’s success; innovators, collaborators and game-changers who not only ask the questions but seek the solutions”.
If you’re a potential game-changer, or if you know one, you had better check out www.futureleaders15.com. And get on to it quickly, applications close Tuesday 17 March.