15/11/2005 - 21:00

Keeping knowledge in the family

15/11/2005 - 21:00

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Dan Pannell was in his vineyard when the idea hit him. As a second-generation winemaker, Mr Pannell knew there was plenty of talent and a whole world of knowledge among the offspring of the men and women who first pruned vines in Western Australia.

Keeping knowledge in the family

Dan Pannell was in his vineyard when the idea hit him. As a second-generation winemaker, Mr Pannell knew there was plenty of talent and a whole world of knowledge among the offspring of the men and women who first pruned vines in Western Australia.

Thus stirred the first thoughts that led Mr Pannell, winemaker at Picardy in the Pemberton region, to create the Second Generation Winemakers initiative.

The idea was simple; gather together a collection of WA wineries now under the control of second-generation winemakers, pool their resources and create an event to showcase not only the diversity among their wine styles, but the unique aspects that come from family winemaking.

The SGW is believed to be the first deliberately themed second generation wine event to be held in Australia.

The idea came at a time when wine marketing has scarcely been more important to winemakers. Increased competition among producers has forced wineries to become more competitive in an oversupplied marketplace. Over recent years the wineries have slipped from family hands, being subsumed by wine conglomerates or multinational beverage companies.

The Lion-Nathan battle over the family-controlled Coopers Brewery in South Australia is the beer equivalent of what has occurred in the Australian wine industry during the past 20 years.

“Wine marketing is hard at the moment,” Mr Pannell says. “Everyone is looking for any edge they can get.

“The market is constantly looking for uniqueness and it is those wineries that offer this that survive. Small family wineries will find out it is very hard to find that edge.”

Yet some of Western Australia’s most successful and dynamic producers still remain in family control. It is, therefore, no coincidence that Mr Pannell has been able to attract some of the state’s heaviest hitters to his SGW soirée.

The SGW’s founding members consists only of WA wineries with siblings now conducting and managing the winemaking at their establishments. They now include the Wignalls from Albany, Frankland Estate from the Frankland River, the Pannells from Picardy in Pemberton, the Edwards from Margaret River, and John Kosovich representing the Swan Valley.

Each of the wineries is a family business with parent and siblings having been and/or involved in making the wines.

For his part, Mr Pannell describes learning first hand from his father, revered WA winemaker Bill Pannell, to have been an invaluable opportunity.

“Learning the business from your parents, you get a sense of combined knowledge. Of course working with your family can be good and bad, rewarding and challenging in its own right,” he says.

The SGW is also a clever marketing initiative. By grouping the sizable mailing lists from all four participants, the collective can instantly advertise to a significant proportion of WA’s wine consumers.

Singapore Airlines thinks the initiative so inventive it has given its support by mailing out details of the event to each of its 800 platinum customers.

The industry and consumer databases of Rigby Transmedia and Creative Juices/Margaret River Wine Club bolster the list as well.

Mr Pannell believes the event, to be held at Matilda Bay Restaurant on November 17, could attract more than 1,000 people.

Times are also good for Picardy. Qantas has scooped the pool, buying most of the available stock of the winemaker’s 2004 chardonnay for exclusive first-class pours.

While breaking new ground in wine marketing with this event, Mr Pannell believes the SGW initiative will be a success. Already several other WA wineries with siblings now making the wines have expressed interest in the project, and more names could be added to future events.

The option of taking the SGW tour Australia wide has also been proposed.

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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