December 11, 2017

All agri brands have place in consumer’s diet: Jim Barry Wines

Jim Barry Wines says there’s no need for Aussie agri brands to compete against each other – all have a place in a modern consumer’s diet.

Competing against other agri brands in the same category is pointless says Peter Barry, owner and managing director of a business his father founded, Jim Barry Wines. With most consumers eating and drinking a wide range of products, there should be enough room for everyone.

Our weekly shopping lists today look increasingly like a degustation menu and, with the modern consumer eating such a variety of products, Jim Barry wines owner and managing director Peter Barry believes there should be room enough for all Australian agribusinesses to have a place in our diet.

A week in the diet of a modern Australian probably includes a variety of protein-based food, dairy or dairy substitutes, plus a mix of salads, smoothies and wines – all provided in some way by agribusinesses.

According to long established brand Jim Barry Wines, agribusiness brands need to recognise that consumers will drink different people’s wines and eat different people’s food.

“The most important thing is we don’t have to compete against the Barossa,” explains Peter Barry.

“Barossa vineyards are lucky in that they make a Barossa style and we make a Clare style. You’ve got to remember that a consumer is going to drink different people’s wines, so you don’t have to own the consumer. As long as you form part of the consumer’s diet, that’s all you require. Once a week they eat red meat, they drink a bottle of Clare Riesling; you’re part of the diet, you’re happy with that.”

Promotion over competition

For Barry, establishing a place on a consumer’s menu is not as much about going against other categories and subcategories as it is about promoting your category first to gain awareness.

“The first thing you do is promote Australian wine against the rest of the world, against Spain, against Argentina,” says Barry. “Then once people understand that, you get down to maybe promoting South Australia for example, and then you come down to promoting the region, and then after that you come down to promoting your own wine.”

When you have category awareness then you need to know what you stand for and promote that brand, rather than worrying about everyone else, he adds. The next task is promoting your brand so you’re on the consumer’s radar.

Comments Barry: “Between 1970 and 1980 there were around 500 wineries in Australia. Today there’s 2000, 2500. So you’ve got to establish a brand in someone’s life. We’ve established a brand based on quality and consistency.”

Bulk to brand

Today, the Jim Barry brand is internationally recognised – but it wasn’t always that way.

Building the brand was a personal dream of Peter’s, having inherited a business that sold wine in bulk to other labels.

“When I meet people, they say, ‘You’ve got a famous winery,’” explains Barry. “But when I started in 1982, we sold very little branded wine, and sold most of it as bulk to other winemakers who required quality wine. My journey in life from 1982 was to establish a brand called Jim Barry, and to establish distribution around Australia.”

Maintaining quality and consistency for Jim Barry Wines, established by and named after Peter’s father, with so many variables, is all about experience in the palate.

“It really comes down to experience in the palate,” says Barry. “Experience in the ability to taste and to actually know how what to look for – it’s visual. For a winemaker, the sense of smell and taste are the parameters from a wine point of view.”

While Australia sleeps the world wakes

In 1983 Peter went on his first export trip, with the view that there was a limited market size in Australia and an untapped overseas opportunity for Australian wine.

“My view was there were only 18 million people in Australia and, when they went to sleep, they didn’t drink wine. But somebody woke up somewhere else in the world, and it was dinner time and they’d open a bottle of wine. So that was really the dream: to sell to people who had wine as part of their culture.”

UK and New Zealand remain Jim Barry’s strongest export markets, from relationships developed in the 1980s, with key labels including Cover Drive Cabernet Sauvignon, Jim Barry Lodge Hill Shiraz, for volume, then McRae Wood Shiraz, a significant brand around the world, and the Armagh with lower sales volumes but high credentials among wine lovers.

Fruit and finesse

If global or Australian tastes shift, Jim Barry Wines still remains constant, with slight variances over the long term.

“We’re producing dry Rieslings, red wines that have fruit, finesse and elegance – and that’s the style we’ve always produced. They change over maybe 10 or 20 years, occasionally from a winemaking point of view. My son has put a younger slant on some of our wines, but that won’t change the entire winemaking process or where we’re going.

With wine-makers lucky to have a label that lasts 20 years, Jim Barry’s classic Armargh has lasted 30 years. The Wines, the Jim Barry vineyard, was also awarded 2016 Australian Winery of the Year by prominent UK wine journalist Matthew Jukes.

Best fertiliser is shoe leather

With a huge 300 hectares of vineyards in Clare and Coonawarra, and a hands-on approach, Barry believes the way to chase success in winemaking begins with walking the vineyards.

“I start my mornings in the vineyard at about quarter to seven. All my life I’ve seen the sun rise – it’s the greatest thing in life. Our family motto is ‘The best fertilizer is shoe leather’.