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BEM Wine MBA : Australian Winery Tour

World Australia Australian Winery Tour For the second session of the BEM Wine MBA 2011-2012 program, the students went down under. Cameras poised, they saw kangaroos hopping in the fields, koala crossing signs, and the beautiful vineyards changing colors for the fall. They were warmly welcomed by the hospitality and generosity of all the Australians they met.
The students stayed in Adelaide, South Australia for ten days. They spent the majority of their time learning international wine marketing and brand development from some of the University of South Australia’s best professors. When they were not in class, however, they had the opportunity to visit some of South Australia’s picturesque wineries and vineyards.

This area, home to some of the most famous wine regions of the country including Barossa Valley, Clare Valley, and McLaren Vale, produces the majority of Australian wine. The region has some of the oldest vineyards including the Hill of Grace vineyard estimated to be 160+ years old. Australia is the fourth largest volume wine exporter in the world with its number one market being the United Kingdom. The continent boasts more than 60 wine regions, concentrated along the southern coast, and over 100 different grape varieties. Although known mostly for Shiraz and Chardonnay, Australian winemakers produce a wide variety of delicious wines including Sangiovese, Malbec, and late harvest dessert wines.
The students visited two of Australia’s largest and most recognized wineries – Penfolds and Jacob’s Creek. Around the world, people know the names of these two wineries, and they have successfully made their names synonymous with Australian wines. Penfolds has gone a step further creating one of Australia’s most iconic wines, Penfolds Grange, that if you are fortunate to try, can cost anywhere from $200 to $400 dollars in the United States. That day, we were some of the fortunate ones to taste the 2004 Grange.

Peter Gago, head winemaker for Penfolds, invited the BEM students to taste four of Penfolds’ top wines in the Max Schubert room at the Magill Estate in the foothills of Adelaide. Max Schubert was the Australian winemaker made famous for producing Penfolds Grange. In addition to the Grange, the group tasted through the 2009 Reserve Bin 09A Adelaide Hills Chardonnay, 2007 Yattarna Chardonnay, and 2008 RWT Barossa Valley Shiraz. This line-up compared the classic style of winemaking of the Yattarna and Grange to the newer, more contemporary styles of the Reserve Bin 09A and RWT.

Penfolds’ mission is to become the world’s largest boutique winery. If anyone can accomplish this seemingly difficult mission, it is Gago. The animated and enthusiastic P. Gago demonstrates a strong passion for his wines that is infectious. He is more than just the head wine maker. He is the marketing, sales, and the overall “face” of Penfolds. We left wanting to learn and taste more of what Penfolds has to offer in the future.
The students also visited Jacob’s Creek winery for a presentation by Jake Wheatley, Global Marketing Manager. Mr. Wheatley
provided them with an overview of the winery’s new vision of making Jacob’s Creek the world’s favorite global brand and the steps being taken to accomplish this goal. Located in the Barossa Valley, Jacob’s Creek Winery is known for their Shiraz and Chardonnay. The winery provided us with a tasting of the classic line and reserve line Shiraz and Chardonnays, all clear examples of what Australian wines are known for around the world, and the reason of Jacob’s Creek’s worldwide popularity.

The Wine MBA students continued their exploration and education of the Australian wine industry with visits to smaller, more boutique wineries. They quickly found out that Australia has more to offer than just the large names of Penfolds and Jacob’s Creek.
The country has many unique and exciting wineries, on which most are jumping on board with the increase in popularity of organic, sustainable, and biodynamic wines. Paxton winery in McLaren Vale took the students on a journey through the world of biodynamic wine production. We learned the winery even keeps a small herd of cattle to ensure the quality of the compost used in the vineyards.

David Paxton, Managing Director of Paxton, hosted the students for an organic inspired lunch and tasting of the biodynamic wines. We tasted through their Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Rose, AAA Shiraz Grenache, Tempranillo, and MV Shiraz. The favorite of the afternoon, a surprise last minute addition, was the EJ Shiraz named after D. Paxton’s mother. The limited release flagship wine is sourced from 100+ year old Shiraz vines and is meant to show the range of wines possible with biodynamic farming.
Then students left for Wirra Wirra, still in McLaren Vale, that has a quirky tradition: watermelon catapulting. When you first drive up to Wirra Wirra, it is not the beauty of the property that strikes you but the full-size trebuchet in the front entrance. Each year the winery celebrates Greg Trotter’s birthday by hurling watermelons into the vineyard. Greg Trotter rebuilt and revamped the rundown winery to make it what it is today. This tradition is just one of many that makes the self-proclaimed Wirra Wirra tribe an eccentric and exciting group that know the value of having fun while working hard.

Rebecca Coombs, Marketing Manager for Wirra Wirra, greeted the students with a presentation of their social media driven marketing projects. One of these projects, the Catapult Experiment, follows a bottle of the Catapult Shiraz Viognier as it travels around the globe in the hands of Catapulters, adventurous volunteer travelers. The students were able to taste the Catapult wine in addition to the Scrubby Rise Sauvignon Blanc, The Lost Watch Riesling, Mrs. Wigley Moscato, 12th Man Chardonnay, RSW, and the famous Church Block. Church Block, first produced by Greg Trotter in 1972, has become the symbol of Wirra Wirra as well as an Australian favorite.

Later in the session, the students were able to venture out into the outback in smaller groups to experience more of the South Australian wine region. Some of them visited the Henschke winery and their famous Hill of Grace vineyard, Yalumba, D’Arenberg, and finally Torbreck which included a tasting of the Run Rig. All the wineries gladly welcomed the group for a comprehensive and educational experience, which they will remember for years to come.
As the second session of the BEM Wine MBA program came to a close, the professors at the University of South Australia held an Australian icon wine tasting hosted by Dr. Patrick Iland. He is a former professor of chemistry and viticulture at Roseworthy Agricultural College and the University of Adelaide, and an expert in Australian wine and viticulture. He taught the students about ten highly representative wines most of which cost anywhere from $50 to $100 AUD. Some of the wines on the list included Arras Grand Vintage 2003, Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay 2008, Penfolds Bin 150 Marananga Shiraz 2008, and Wynns John Riddock Cabernet Sauvignon 1996 to name a few. As with all the wine experiences during the trip, this tasting provided the students with a better understanding and appreciation of the excellence of Australian wines, concluding a successful session.
Jane Catherine Collins
Etudiante BEM Wine MBA 2011/12