An Interview with Phillip Reedman with Antiquarian Wines

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This is from an interview with Phillip Reedman, Master of Wine, on #Winemktmonday with Antiquarian Wines. I approached Phillip Reedman about an interview on #winemktmonday, a live twitter chat on the second and 4th Monday of each month. I asked him to participate in one of our future online conversations and talk about his marketing strategies in the Australian Wine Market. Phillp Reedman is from Adelaide, South Australia.

Jessyca: 1) The Australian market, how is it different to the wine market in the USA?

Phillip 1: ) The whole country is one market and we don’t have a mandated system of importers, distributors and so forth.  A retailer can import direct and the can sell and distribute across all states.  Producers and importers can sell direct to consumrs and ship to them wherever they live.  It’s a simple system with few barriers to entry.

Retail-wise, we have two major chains which dominate retail.  It’s extremely price competitive if you’re in these businesses but you can do great volume.  Both of these businesses are vertically integrated, Woolworths the bigger of the two even owns vineyards in the Barossa Valley.

Independent retails have to have a real niche to be successful and there are a lot of them across the country, bricks and mortar as well as on line.

Cellar-door direct to consumer trade is significant with a few wineries doing the vast bulk of their sales this way and thus capturing the whole profit chain.

Many brands don’t look for retail distribution, preferring to be sold only via restaurants which they see as offering greater prestige and brand-development opportunities.  With a highly developed food and wine culture across the country but especially the major cities this is a successful channel strategy for some brands.

But of course with a population of only 24 million the market isn’t nearly so large as the US market.  The legal drinking age is 18.

Jessyca Lewis 2) How have you used social media to promote Antiquarian wine? Which platforms work best for you? And why ?

Phillip 2) Facebook and Twitter are the two main SM platforms we’ve used.  Our Australian distributor, Airoldi Fine Wines, uses Instagram too.  WeChat is used especially to reach the Chinese markets which of course have difficulty with Twitter and Facebook.  While China isn’t a focus market just now we’re always keen to create some awareness…you never know where it will lead.

Jessyca Lewis 3) How important is the Sustainability angle In the success of marketing your wine? How can you market your wine using sustainability and create an international brand?

Phillip 3) We’ve not really played-up the conventional sustainability aspect of Antiquarian even though there’s a solid story there.  The ethos of this family, three generation business is based on sustainability. Water is the BIG story for us; our vineyards in the Riverland of South Australia depend on water from the Murray River to keep them growing during our hot and dry summers.  But water is of course a precious resource so we use computer-controlled drip irrigation to minimise water use and ensure that none is wasted.

The other sustainability story is the genesis of the wine; the four blocks of vines which go into Antiquarian Rare Field White are mature vines, over 30 years old but prior to Rare Field White being developed these vines faced the Bulldozer because they had no obvious commercial relevance.  We saved the vineyard and avoided the huge cost and all the inputs of developing a new vineyard.  We modestly hope that by creating a premium-priced wine from the Riverland, a region which in some eyes has a poor reputation, we’re helping generate sustainability for the whole region via an improved reputation.

Jessyca 4). How did you develop your brand for Aquarian wine ? 
Phillip 4) Knowing that we had these four blocks of vineyard which didn’t pay their way spurred us on to think how we could use them.  How to use Muscadelle, Semillon, Colombard and Chenin Blanc?  An epiphany on a flight from London to Adelaide inspired the idea to pick and ferment them together.  Ferment in old oak with wild yeast.  Simple, easy winemaking to let the wine sing of its place and vintage.

The labelling was based on a label the business had used previously for its top barrel select Shiraz; a label which conveys confidence and premium positioning.  It’s an old-school label….Antiquarian by name and nature.

Premium weight bottle, heavy paper stock for the label and Stelvin-Luxe screwcap packed in carton of six convey a high-priced wine.

Once we’d got the wine into bottle we worked really hard on getting opinion-leaders and influencers to taste the wine; create that demand.  We had some great press coverage for the wine and the brand of Antiquarian Wines.

We were lucky enough to find our Australian d its story.distributor when  I took a bottle of the wine to a graduation dinner for some WSET students who I’d taught and one of them asked if he could take on the agency.  An amazing stroke of luck for us.

The whole country is one market and we don’t have a mandated system of importers, distributors and so forth.  A retailer can import direct and the can sell and distribute across all states.  Producers and importers can sell direct to consumers and ship to them wherever they live.

It’s a simple system with few barriers to entry.

Retail-wise, we have two major chains which dominate retail.  It’s extremely price competitive if you’re in these businesses but you can do great volume.  Both of these businesses are vertically integrated, Woolworths the bigger of the two even owns vineyards in the Barossa Valley

Independent retails have to have a real niche to be successful and there are a lot of them across the country, bricks and mortar as well as on line.

Cellar-door direct to consumer trade is significant with a few wineries doing the vast bulk of their sales this way and thus capturing the whole profit chain.

Many brands don’t look for retail distribution, preferring to be sold only via restaurants which they see as offering greater prestige and brand-development opportunities.  With a highly developed food and wine culture across the country but especially the major cities this is a successful channel strategy for some brands.

But of course with a population of only 24 million the market isn’t nearly so large as the US market.  The legal drinking age is 18

Jessyca 5). Are you exporting Antiquarian Wine? What markets are you exporting to?

Phillip 5) We are exporting Antiquarian, yes.  So far the UK is the main export market, and that is just starting now, but we are also targeting relevant channels in mainland Europe.  The USA and China are key target markets.  China has taken Antiquarian Shiraz in the past so we see an opportunity there but the question is, can we persuade them to drink white wine?  I think we can but it’s unlikely to be a huge volume in the early days.  Ideally we’d like to export to a number of markets to spread the risk that comes with focusing on a single market.  The domestic market will always be important to us but we’d like to see some good volumes going into relevant export markets.  We know it takes time to build this export

Jessyca 6) What’s the best technique to market in the UK?

Phillip 6) Long term thinking.  The UK is a great market, it’s a simple market from an administration point of view but it is a market with barriers to entry in terms of access to retail; everyone it seems, wants to sell to the UK and the good distributors have full books.

Understanding how and where you want your wine sold is the key. Once you understand that you can target the relevant distributors.  Bu the work doesn’t end there, you’ve got to keep enthusing the sales team, showing them why your products will work for their customers.  Frequent contact is essential and immediate follow up to their enquiries and requests is critical.

All this, while keeping in mind that “An overnight success” is likely ten years in the making.

Jessyca 7). So you’ve got a really diverse vineyard resource: what else are you working on?

Phillp 7) We’ve got the ‘usual suspects’ of varieties in both our Riverland and Clare Valley vineyards but along them we’ve also got some oddities.  We’ve just launched the first vintage of our Clare Valley Pinot Noir Shiraz, the 2016.

Pinot Noir isn’t an obvious variety for Clare but we’ve got a small block contiguous with some of our best Shiraz.  Nine clones of Pinot.  So we decided to follow in the footsteps of legendary Australian winemaker Maurice O’Shea and combine the two.  While Maurice blended his wines post ferment we con-fermented them to continue the Antiquarian theme of co-fermented wines.  It’s a glorious wine and the 2017 in barrel is a great successor.

We’re just about to bottle our latest white wine: the first vintage of a Clare Valley Riesling Semillon.  Yes, we co-fermented it, in old barrels.  I’ve been really getting into the dry white Bordeaux of late, I love how they combine texture with more minerally flavours and tight acidity.  So this is our homage to Clare’s two greatest white varieties.  I can’t wait to get home in a couple of weeks and taste the newly bottled wine.

Our Clare vineyard has some Sangiovese, which we’ve made into multiple-trophy winning wines over the last few years.  I’ve got my eye on some of that vineyard for something funky….we just haven’t quite decided what, but we’ll see.

In 2018 vintage we’re going to do so micro-vinifications of Chenin Blanc and one or two of the other Riverland whites to see what they look like as varietals.  Anything that works we’ll scale up for the 2019 vintage….Savennieres watch out.

Jessyca 8) What is Antiquarian Rare Field White?  How did it come about? What makes it so special? How does it differ from a blend?

Phillp 8) Rare Field White, like I said earlier, came about while flying home from London…good thinking time on a plane. I’d tasted Eben Sadie’s ‘T Voetpad wine and it dawned on me that we could do something similar.  Co-fermenting different grape varieties brings about a whole load more flavours and winemaking opportunities; we don’t need to acidify the wine because by including enough of the high acid varieties in the ferment we can produce a balanced wine, naturally.  You also get all manner of aromas and flavours which you don’t get out of single varietal wines or post ferment blended wines.  I tell you, it’s a voyage of discovery.

Recently I opened a bottle of the 2015 when a friend came around to dinner.  I decanted it to open it up a bit.  Our dinner guest brought a fine bottle of Chablis premier Cru so we didn’t get to finish the Rare Field white.  I left the wine in its decanter in the fridge over the next couple of days and each day as I tasted it it had opened up and developed even more.  Fascinating to see the wine develop in this way and it makes me think that it is a white wine with real scope to improve for a decade in bottle; that’s an exciting prospect.

If interested in the topic of wine marketing, plan to check out Jessyca Lewis #winemktmonday twitter chat the second and fourth Monday of each Month of each month at 9am PST. Thank you Phillip for this wonderful opportunity. 

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