A higher grade of wine
Operating out of McLaren Vale, Boar’s Rock Winery has been producing high grade vintage wine from idyllically situated South Australian vineyards for over a decade. After purchasing the winery in late 2012, the Fleurieu Vintners Group has since nearly tripled its ability to produce premium grade wine.
“It’s a 10,000 tonne capacity winery and it’s built from a greenfield site, so it’s one of the few wineries designed from scratch,” says David Watkins, a Director and owner of the business. “It’s very well designed and very efficiently constructed, so we thought ‘if we can buy that for the right price we will.’”
A graduate of agricultural sciences and business studies, David and his university contemporary and business partner Warren Randall have always aimed to be in the winemaking business. In 1997, they planned to take advantage of South Australia’s vintage-accommodating geography by planting 40 hectares of vineyard. 16 years later, they have 430 hectares of vineyard, 16,000 tonnes of winery processing capacity, and a production of 30,000 cases of premium bottled wine.
High in grade, heavy in bulk
Boar’s Rock Winery works tirelessly to accomplish Fleurieu Vintners’ goal of converting large quantities of high standard, meticulously grown grapes into bulk quantities of premium vintage wine.
“Certain regions are capable of producing higher grade wines,” David explains. “With our vineyards in the cool climate regions south of Adelaide, our focus is to produce only the highest grade wines. We prune our vineyards to lower yield, and we apply very careful viticultural management and attention to detail to ensure that we unlock the value from the quality of that fruit.”
There are not many other businesses that can provide what the winemakers at Boar’s Rock provide. Most vineyards situated in other regions are simply not capable of producing the quality of fruit necessary for high grade wines, David says. And most other companies simply lack the scale of Fleurieu Vintners, and so are without the ability to convert large quantities of quality fruit into quality wine at the same speed.
“The Australian wine industry is a relatively small industry. Out of 2,500 wine companies in Australia, only 53 crush more than 3,000 tonnes,” David says. “If companies want a relatively large supply of a particular vintage, variety or quality, there are only a limited number of suppliers that can provide that.”
Customers of Boar’s Rock Winery’s bulk vintage are both domestic and international. The company’s branded products – which include the wines Quorum, Old Gentleman, Blackbilly, Clarence Hill and James Haselgrove – are exported to 18 different countries in 24,000 litre bladders overseas, as well as distributed throughout Australia via Fleurieu Vintners’ sister company, Adelaide Winemakers.
“If you looked at most of the major companies in Australia that have got a labelled product, we would be supplying wine to them in one form or another,” says David. “They may have a need for more of a particular vintage than they anticipated, more than their facility is able to handle, or it may be better for them to buy wine than to buy fruit and make wine.”
Boar’s Rock Winery has 25 full-time employees, David says, but this number doubles during the vintage period, when many thousands of tonnes of fruit are brought into the winery and processed. When it comes to producing premium grade vintage, the skills of a core winemaking and core cellar hand team, as well as the knowledge of Boar’s Rock’s three vineyard managers, cannot be understated.
“The business of growing grapes to a high quality is not a formula that you can simply follow,” David explains. “There is a reaction to every event that occurs during the growing season, and that ranges from the time of the application of irrigations, supplementary irrigations, of sprays, and of the quality of the pruning and weed control.”
Optimisation of the vineyards’ natural capability, says David, is what Boar’s Rock Winery is trying to achieve. He explains that while simply converting grapes into wine is something just about anyone can do, there are many nuances to its optimal conversion, and the skill of the winemaker is paramount. Their work entails everything from temperature control and fermentation speed monitoring to the appropriate evolution of flavours in terms of tannin, acidity and sweetness.
The team at Boar’s Rock intrinsically understands those complexities – which is why the company focuses on building strong, long-lasting relationships with their employees.
They have the same focus when it comes to their suppliers, David adds. They try to build a relationship of mutual respect, where the supplier can be relied on to deliver, and Boar’s Rock can be relied on to pay. These relationships are important, David explains, because the timing of some of the winery’s supply requirements are “absolutely critical” – such as the cartage of newly-picked grapes, the delaying of which would incur a loss of quality.
In the future, David says they want to continue fostering those strong relationships both internally and externally – with both suppliers as well as customers. Currently, Fleurieu Vintners’ chief priority is take on more contracts, so that it can make use of the remaining processing capacity at its recently-acquired Boar’s Rock Winery. Because of this, it can increase its production levels to match demands very quickly, which by the turn of the industry can also grow rapidly.
“I wouldn’t say we’ve put any limitations on where we want the company to go,” David says. “What we do is we focus on immediate requirements and we’re very opportunistic in the way we move forward. The wine industry is moving from an oversupplied part of the cycle into a more balanced part of the cycle.”
“Major customers find their way to our door as the supply tightens up,” he concludes, “and our response to their requirements will determine our growth. The faster that demand is created the faster we will grow. Right now our job is to fill the spare capacity in our two wineries. Once that has been achieved we’ll be casting our eyes about for the next opportunity.”
For more information, please visit their website at Boar’s Rock Winery
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