Why Hugh Hamilton Wines turned its back on Woolies & Coles
The chief executive of Hugh Hamilton Wines, Mary Hamilton, has revealed to The Australian why she refuses to sell her wine to the major supermarkets.
Hamilton has put a structure in place that sees the winery almost exclusively sell direct to consumers via its Black Sheep Club.
“It’s an extraordinarily competitive industry — to be honest, with our population of 24 million there is not enough people who want to buy wines over $20 a bottle to sustain all of us," she said.
“And so around the time the global financial crisis hit in 2009, we were quite invested in the US market and that just absolutely fell away in a single breath and we were all replaced — they just wiped us off the map.
“At that point, I made the strategic decision around did we want to be big and try and be everywhere, or be small and highly profitable?
“I made the decision to go left rather than right, to be small and highly profitable and created a niche that we could work.
“We designed the business to be a price-making business rather than price-taking kind of business and so we are not reliant on that grocery duopoly at all. In fact, we won’t sell to them.’’
Mary said another exciting development at Hugh Hamilton Wines has been the decision to replace petit verdot vines with saperavi.
The winery now can’t keep up with the demand, and there is currently a limit of one bottle per Black Sheep club member, with the winery to soon have three vineyards planted with saperavi.
Only about 20 winegrowers produce saperavi in Australia, a grape variety that originated in the Kakheti region of eastern Georgia
Winegrowers Christobelle Anderson and Howard Anderson, of Anderson Winery in Rutherglen, also made the decision to begin planting the varietal a few years ago.
"We only put in half a hectare of [saperavi] to start with because it's something so new and unknown, but we were really happy with the wines that we were making," Anderson told ABC News.
"Without even releasing a wine yet, in the spring of 2015 we decided to graft over another half hectare of shiraz to saperavi.
"It's distinctly different to your more standard shiraz or merlot. It's got this dark cherry spicy, earthy like-a-beetroot character.
"There seems to be a bit of noise being made about saperavi, which I'm kind of excited about because we seem to have come on at just the right time when all this is happening," she said.