|An Interview with Wayne Keoghan of Annvers Wines, South Australia
By Jim Clarke
Jim Clarke: Your background, I understand, is in electronics; how were you able to establish relationships with winegrowers - especially winegrowers with high-quality, old vine vineyards - when you decided to start making wine?
Wayne Keoghan: We originally gained our entry to the wine industry through a close friend who owned an old premium vineyard located nearby in McLaren Vale. He suggested on a visit to our 170-acre farm in the Adelaide Hills South Australia that it was an ideal location to establish a premium vineyard. We are situated in a region with excellent climate and soil for viticulture and with the farm has seven dams to provide sufficient water when required. Our friend then introduced us to his long established viticulture contacts. This was invaluable for us, not only in assisting us in the planting of our own estate vineyard but also in introducing us to premium growers, one of whom is a fifth generation grape grower.
JC: What is your total production, and how much of it is sold in Australia?
WK: For the 2004 vintage we have produced 7,000 dozen. Currently we sell 30% of our production within Australia, the balance being exported to nine countries including the U.S.A. We now produce eight wines in total.
JC: In the U.S. Australian wines are most strongly promoted at the budget, $10-a-bottle level. Have you had difficulties making customers feel comfortable with spending a bit more for your wines?
WK: I think Australian wines are generally excellent value for money at all price levels and in recent years we have become recognized for it. However, with Annvers being relatively new (1998) the biggest challenge is getting the consumer to experience our wines for the first time. Once tasted they appreciate the quality of our hand made wines and we have found that they usually become loyal, long-term customers.
JC: Most of the Australian wine scene is dominated by a handful of large companies; is it hard to market and distribute your wines in that the environment that creates?
WK: No, not at all; the large Australian wine companies have been the pioneers opening up new markets worldwide, which has assisted us smaller boutique producers. We offer unique wines, hand made with a traditional approach using open fermenters with extended maturation. Fruit is left on skins for up to 20 days for our red wines – longer than at most other wineries. We generally compliment the larger wineries as they have huge volumes at various price points but mostly, as you mentioned, in the $10 range.
JC: You emphasize the matching of varietal to region in sourcing your grapes; will Australian regions become more subdivided in the future, perhaps on the French model, or does the scale that many larger producers are working on make that unlikely?
WK: Yes, Annvers is very focused on sourcing the varieties that are best suited to a particular region. For example, our Cabernet Sauvignon is from a single vineyard of 50 years old vines in Langhorne Creek which is singularly best known for this variety. Likewise our Shiraz is from McLaren Vale, which again is renown for it’s excellent Shiraz’s more than any other grape. Our whites and soon to be released Rosé are from the cool climate Adelaide Hills.
Australia will create more subregions over time but we can’t see the French model ever being adopted here. One of Australia’s strengths has been the flexibility for the grower/winery to grow whichever variety they believe best suits the climate in any particular region and/or the style of wine the winery/winemaker wants to produce, with a much freer hand than exists in the old world countries.
JC: One of the accusations leveled against some Australian wines is that they’re too over-the-top to serve with food. Is potential food pairings something you consider when you make your wines?
WK: Annvers appreciates the importance of pairing food and wine. However we strive to make the very best possible wine starting with the best fruit. Our wines tend to be more fruit driven and we believe in adding subtlety by way of wood maturation, not oak domination. We do respect the individuality of each person’s palate and allow him or her to choose.
JC: You’ve established a consistently high level for your wines during the six years you’ve been operating and recently added a Chardonnay to your portfolio; do you have further plans to expand?
WK: Yes, we
will soon be introducing two new wines from the Adelaide Hills, a Rose
and a Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc, which will give Annvers a total of eight
wines in our portfolio.
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