Family businesses rarely survive into a third generation and it’s said today is the golden age of startups. So when Kristina Dryza sat down to chat with Richard Angove, the global brand manager of Angove, a fifth generation family-owned wine company, she found an enterprise confidently bringing the past to the future.
You’re a fifth generation family-owned wine company. Tell us about your family’s character and how this rich lineage influences the wines.
We’re an honest, hardworking family and we love making wines. I’m very lucky to be part of a great, old family business – lucky that each generation has worked hard to continue to make great wines.
The wine industry requires patience and we take our time to ensure we grow the best grapes and make the best wines we possibly can. We make business decisions with a long-term perspective and they’re always made within the framework of quality. It’s our name on the label so we wear our heart on our sleeves. If a wine’s not up to scratch, it’s not released.
From a personal perspective, it’s so great to work with my father and sister, they both have amazing knowledge and experience and we work really well together.
You recently opened a new cellar door in McLaren Vale, South Australia. Why now?
The path to McLaren Vale was not one that you can really map out. My great- great-grandfather began making wine in 1886 in Tea Tree Gully in the north east of Adelaide. He was a doctor, and like many other doctors of the time (Dr Penfold and Dr Wynn), one of their hobbies was making wine. They’d make wine as a tonic for their patients and soon their hobbies became more business than hobby.
The vineyards of northeast Adelaide are no longer there as the state government compulsorily acquired them and the whole area was rezoned from agriculture to housing. When the vineyards were removed, we based all the production at Renmark (254 km northeast of Adelaide) and closed the winery down.
At that time, my grandfather was running the business and his driving passion was to make a world-beating spirit. When Max Schubert (founder and creator of Penfolds Grange) was going over to Bordeaux to learn how to make really good dry red wines, Tom Angove was heading to Cognac to learn how to distill and make really fine brandy.
My grandfather was really quite content growing grapes in Renmark for St. Agnes, which is now Australia’s premium brandy, but it wasn’t until my father, John, started in the business in the late 70s that he saw a real need for us to have a position in the quality branded table wine market.
To have that position you need to grow grapes in regions that produce wines of provenance and substance – wines with identity. We started taking fruit from McLaren Vale in 2000 and as we began making wines from the region we soon realised the area’s potential: sustainable, consistent, exceptional soil – similar to that of Tea Tree Gully – with wonderful people and a fantastic community atmosphere. With those ingredients we knew it was the place to make our best wines, and the place to showcase them.
What’s the brand experience you offer?
Our focus is on single vineyard wines. Wine tourists can taste wines that literally come from the middle of the vineyard they’re grown in and during harvest they can taste the grapes; they can see how the vineyard evolves through the seasons and how soil, climate and culture impact the wines.
We want to provide a place where people can come and experience all the great things McLaren Vale has to offer – great food, wine and hospitality. We’ve created a destination that will immerse visitors in the ultimate wine experience and offer much more than your standard cellar door.
What are some of the unique design features of the building?
Designed by JBG Architects, the building is a delicate mix of old and new. The western end of the building is traditional old Adelaide bluestone and is a replica of the original Brightlands cellar where Dr Angove made his first wines. The remainder of the building is floor-to-ceiling glass ensuring the beautiful Warboys vineyard is the hero. This particular vineyard is spectacular and only a stone’s throw from the town centre. From the terrace you’re literally sitting in the middle of the vineyard with panoramic 180-degree views of the stunning McLaren Vale vista.
The cellar door also features recycled Jarrah from the winery’s 100-year-old storage vats for the bench tops, tables and woodwork. It’s great to reuse this amazing wood, which has lasted the test of time and has so much historical significance.
Describe for us your Medhyk Shiraz (though ideally people would prefer drinking it than reading about it!!!).
Medhyk is Cornish for doctor and my great-great-grandfather was a Cornish doctor so the name honours him. The Medhyk Shiraz is the ‘best of the best’ of our McLaren Vale Shiraz. It’s a barrel selection and each September my father and I, with our winemaking team, assess our McLaren Vale barrels and only the best make the blend. It’s made in small quantities and always sells out.
The majority of people only interact with wine as a consumer. What’s it like to be a winemaker and live and work through a vintage?
Vintage is hard work, but great fun. It’s the best time . . . tasting grapes and seeing the potential for great wines. We spend a lot of time in the vineyard as well as watching the weather. It’s a rewarding time as we get to witness the process – fruit on the vine transformed into wine is something quite special. At the end of the day, wine is an agricultural product and Mother Nature always plays her part.
“Good times and good wines.” What role does wine play in society today?
Wine should be an accessory to great food and time spent with family and friends. The best times are at Christmas when our family is sitting around the table with some amazing food, tasting wines from all over the world. It always leads to great conversation.
Organic, sustainable, biodynamic and all the other ‘buzz’ words that exist in the marketing of wines. What do these concepts mean to you on a practical level?
Two words really – healthy vines. All our McLaren Vale holdings run organically, with a number of biodynamic preparations. It’s all about the health of the soil and the resultant health and balance of the vine as this delivers better quality fruit and makes the vines more resistant to stress. It’s more expensive, but we believe it’s best for the vine and for a sustainable future.
What wine trends do you believe will influence the Australian industry over the next 5-10 years?
An increase in consumers experimenting with alternate varieties and imported wines . . . lighter style reds, but not sweet ones . . . as well as wines with elegance; a move away from the higher alcohol, heavily oaked wines.
And finally, what’s your favourite food and wine pairing?
Tough one. Duck with Pinot Noir or blue cheese with a Sauterne or great dessert or ice wine.