The ‘100th monkey effect’ explains the moment when where a critical number of group members adapt to a new behaviour, making it an accepted part of what they do – rather than something new, or different. How does this relate to a group of grapegrowers? Nathan Gogoll reports.
100TH MONKEY VINGERONS is a cluster group of four grapegrowing families that have joined forces across the past two years, boosted by some ‘cluster funding’ from Primary Industries and Regions SA (PIRSA), to the point where a collective brand has been developed and two independent board members have been appointed, winemaker Sue Bell and master of wine Phil Reedman. The group represents three per cent of South Australia’s winegrape production and was officially launched in Adelaide on Thursday afternoon.
“I think this cluster coming together is trying to think of different ways to do things, definitely building trust in those relationships,” Sue Bell said. “It’s not just about growing and hoping; it’s not just about growing and seeing how much money you can get – beating your neighbour; it’s about building long-term relationships of trust – and putting back into that land you’re working.”The four businesses are all family affairs – Karelia Station (Saville family), Liebich Family Vineyards, Ricca Terra Farms (Ratcliff family) and Sherwood Estates (Proud family).
“The first six months was all about trying to get the right people around the table,” Ashley Ratcliff said. “I’m so pleased with the foundation members we’ve got – they all offer something different. As a group, our four growers have nearly three per cent of the state’s grape production. To give that some context, it’s nearly as big as the Clare Valley – nearly as big as Wrattonbully.
“We had a group of four individual grapegrowers who wanted to come together as a cluster, but nobody really knew what that would be or what it would do,” Ashley Ratcliff said.
“Our next step was to develop identities for the cluster members… so each of the cluster members now has their own logo, they all have their own web pages and their own social media, so all of a sudden they have found that identity and they can take that message to the world.”
All four families are based in South Australia’s Riverland.
“It took a little while to come up with the 100th Monkey name,” Ratcliff said. “We made the conscious decision, whether it was right or wrong, not to include ‘Riverland’ in the name. That isn’t because of embarrassment, whatsoever. But we know in this state, unfortunately, there are people in the wine sector who don’t think the Riverland and quality go hand-in-hand – and we didn’t want to fight that. So we came up with a name that was a little bit different, the strategy was we would say ‘we’re from 100th Monkey Vignerons’ and people would hopefully ask ‘what does that mean?’. We’ve found, so far, 99.9 per cent of people say ‘what is that? Tell us more about it’, which gives us the opportunity to tell our story about the Riverland and who we are.”
The 100th Monkey Vigneron vision is: To establish a collective group of Riverland grapegrowers who could build a successful, stainable, profitable premium offering (whether that is grapes, wine or services) to the South Australian, Australian and also international wine community.
Brett Proud explained his motivation to join this group by sharing a moment when he heard himself talking about “hopefully” seeing the industry turn around quickly and “hoping” things would get better.
“I thought ‘that doesn’t sound like a good business plan’ to be relying on hope,” Proud said.
His own business has changed and grown through ‘collaborative farming techniques’ and today marks the fifth anniversary of the formation of Sherwood Estates.
“That took a small family farmer, me, and restructured the business to be a corporate viticulture co-operation company – so Sherwood Estates now operates 200 hectares of vineyards, compared to me six years ago who had a little 30 hectare property.
“We needed to take some chances, put our neck on the chopping block and do something different – otherwise we’d always get what we’d always got.
“So we’ve got some people involved who’ve taken a gamble and really tried to do something different for their families and their family farms.”
The grapegrowers involved are proud of the quality of their grape production; proud to be working with alternative varieties; and looking to increase their certified organic production numbers. They are also looking to re-invest in their communities and the Riverland environment through this cluster project.
For more information about the project, and the businesses involved, visit http://www.100thmonkeyvignerons.com.au