Alan Deans

Money Magazine Australia - - CONTENTS -

What’s in a name? A fair amount if you’re South Aus­tralian wine­maker Rose Ken­tish. When she first popped onto the scene in 2008 as some­one to be taken se­ri­ously by win­ning McLaren Vale’s Bush­ing Queen wine­maker of the year ti­tle, her la­bel was Ulithorne. For 10 years that name, linked to her fam­ily vine­yard, flour­ished. But then she made the ag­o­nis­ing de­ci­sion to sell to her busi­ness part­ner. Her ac­claimed Euro­pean style of rosés and reds re­main but now they bear her own name to pro­claim the fact that she is back to stay.

“When your name is on the la­bel there is nowhere for you to go,” ex­plains Ken­tish. “I was de­mand­ing it of my­self this time around. There is no way that I’m go­ing to make that mis­take again, to let some­one else into a cre­ative pur­suit of mine. You have to be ex­tremely pa­tient in the wine in­dus­try, for re­turns. I saw it as some­thing I would still be do­ing when I was 80 and pos­si­bly hand­ing on to my chil­dren. Be­ing a be­spoke maker, across ev­ery as­pect of what you do and putting your name to it, I think shows your sin­cer­ity and your au­then­tic­ity. Also, there has to be an el­e­ment of be­lief in your abil­ity when you put your name on the front.”

Of course, Aus­tralian wine­mak­ers have long fol­lowed this prac­tice. Philip Shaw, Stephen Hen­schke and Vanya Cullen are among those who do so, as Wolf Blass and the late Len Evans and Peter Lehmann did be­fore them. It’s a tried-and-true mar­ket­ing strat­egy across a range of in­dus­tries that tie prod­ucts with per­sonal val­ues such as care, trust and qual­ity.

It says a tremen­dous amount for Ken­tish’s com­mit­ment and abil­ity that she has re­mained in winemaking and is ex­celling at it again. “I learned so much through that ex­pe­ri­ence. If you don’t learn, you can end up bit­ter and twisted. It has been quite a griev­ing process.”

Just one day after sell­ing Ulithorne, she flew to France with her fu­ture course as a wine­maker front of mind.

This de­ter­mi­na­tion had its foun­da­tions in the late 2000s when Ken­tish wanted to push the bound­aries of her abil­i­ties. At that time, wine­mak­ers in McLaren Vale were suf­fer­ing through tough vin­tages caused by sear­ing, dry weather. No wine was pro­duced by Ulithorne in 2009 be­cause Ken­tish wanted to stay true to her credo of qual­ity first. Sun­burned fruit would not help that cause. Hav­ing mar­ried young, she was get­ting itchy feet and wanted to push the bound­aries of her life and ca­reer. With hus­band Sam and their four chil­dren in tow, she set off to learn how to make dry, del­i­cate style rosés un­der the blue skies of Provence.

“Australia has learned to make rosé based on richer tastes with higher resid­ual sugar; more of the cherry red, Ital­ianesque style,” says Ken­tish. “I was much more in­trigued by the Proven­cal del­i­cate, dry, rose petal, onion-skin coloured wine. So I sat the fam­ily down and said my dream was to find a fam­ily where I could buy their fruit, use their win­ery, learn to make this style of wine and then bot­tle it, la­bel it and bring it home un­der my own name. Ini­tially they thought it was go­ing to be a great hol­i­day. Let’s go for a month and do it. But then I told them I would need five to six months. I had to find the peo­ple who I wanted to make wine with. I hadn’t been mak­ing white wine in McLaren Vale, so while I was there I wanted to look at wine va­ri­eties. I needed to build a range, not just one wine.

“I found a place to live in the south of France, which plonked us in the mid­dle of three wine-grow­ing re­gions that were renowned for rosé, and off we went. By the

Rose Ken­tish South Aus­tralian wine­maker, men­tor for women in busi­ness. Raised on a potato farm; Bach­e­lor of Busi­ness de­gree ma­jor­ing in mar­ket­ing; first job at 16 in famed chef Chris­tine Mans­field’s restau­rant, Grey Masts, at Robe, SA; be­came a wine­maker after buy­ing her fa­ther-in­law’s McLaren Vale vine­yard; has won mul­ti­ple awards and is a wine judge. Lives in Mid­dle­ton, SA. In­vests sav­ings into her busi­ness but also owns a house in Ade­laide for her four chil­dren to live in while at school.

end of 2010, I had made two wines, a rosé from Provence and ver­mentino on the is­land of Cor­sica, with a third one on my mind us­ing rare red va­ri­eties on Cor­sica. I could see a range emerg­ing. When we came home, we shipped the wine back in re­frig­er­ated con­tain­ers and I went out to the mar­ket with it.” It helps that mar­ket­ing is an­other strong point for Ken­tish.

She is back in France right now for her eighth vin­tage. Her wines from Provence and Cor­sica now com­prise half her sales in Australia. She also buys fruit from pri­vate grow­ers in McLaren Vale who she has known for years, and uses a lo­cal win­ery to make four types of Aus­tralian red, in­clud­ing a sparkling shi­raz.

“I’ve just gone re­ally slow and steady on re­leas­ing wine. It is a bit like driv­ing a big ship. It takes a cou­ple of years to age wine. It has been very con­sid­ered and I have done it very care­fully. I am very proud of my­self. It’s about my gut in­stinct. I had a good idea from the busi­ness per­spec­tive, but in the end it had to feel right for me per­son­ally. I am out there ev­ery day talk­ing about my wine and who I am through my wines. It’s a very per­sonal thing for me.

“I won’t buy a vine­yard un­less it’s a gob­s­mack­ingly gor­geous place that I know I can make great wines from. It takes time to find those places. Sam is very open to work­ing with me to tend the wines too, do­ing the viti­cul­ture.”

Be­tween vin­tages, Ken­tish has plenty to keep her busy. There is the old mill that the fam­ily bought in Mid­dle­ton, on the coast south of Ade­laide. Sam is build­ing a high-end re­treat in the gar­den. When she isn’t globe-trot­ting, Ken­tish spends her week­ends there read­ing and walk­ing on the surf beach.

But there is an­other ven­ture un­der way too, one that draws on Ken­tish’s deep mar­ket­ing back­ground and sense of en­trepreneur­ship, which she says came from her fa­ther, a potato grower north of Mt Gam­bier near a town called Ming­bool. He had an en­tre­pre­neur­ial mind and loved to tin­ker. Po­ta­toes were a high-risk crop, so he turned his mind to new serv­ing ideas – potato cake and potato-based piz­zas.

The other ven­ture is called Sparkke, an Ade­laide-based brewer founded on sev­eral core val­ues. It came about after a mar­ket­ing strate­gist friend, Kari Allen, was asked to do a deep dive into the craft brew­ing in­dus­try. She quickly found it was a crowded mar­ket­place but there was room for a so­cial en­ter­prise that was com­mit­ted to in­clu­sive­ness and di­ver­sity. Sparkke’s core am­bi­tion is to give young women and other peo­ple who do not iden­tify as males a chance to have a go.

“We pulled together an ad­vi­sory board and re­ally thrashed out the idea,” says Ken­tish. “We also found a young brewer, Agi Ga­jic, who was leav­ing her pre­vi­ous job, and grabbed her as she was leav­ing to go to the States. We asked whether, in­stead of do­ing that, could she come with us and be a part owner of the busi­ness?

“She did and in De­cem­ber 2016 we crowd­funded with prod­uct pre-sales and raised just over $100,000 in four weeks for a com­pany that no one had never heard of be­fore, with prod­ucts no one had tasted. We used that as proof of con­cept. We de­cided if we could do that in a month, then there’s space for this com­pany.

“We then, in Jan­uary 2017, brewed those prod­ucts, put them into cans and got them to peo­ple who bought them. Then we started go­ing around the coun­try to in­de­pen­dents and bars, clubs and res­tau­rants show­ing our fer­mented prod­ucts and then mov­ing into wine in a can. We are not even 18 months old, and it has been an ex­tra­or­di­nary jour­ney of man­ag­ing this group of young women who have a lot to give and of­fer in mak­ing and mar­ket­ing and want­ing so­cial change.

“For us, rais­ing mil­len­ni­als, we re­ally want to show this next gen­er­a­tion that you do have an op­por­tu­nity to drive change in the world and you can do it from the hip pocket. You can do it from how you choose to spend your money.” A high­light has been sell­ing wine at El­ton John con­certs with “Say I Do” stamped on the cans to sup­port mar­riage equal­ity.

“I’ve just gone re­ally slow and steady on re­leas­ing wines. It’s like driv­ing a big ship”

In­spi­ra­tion ... Ken­tish is set­ting an ex­am­ple for the next gen­er­a­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.