14/05/2018 - 15:07

Sandalford selling wine experiences

14/05/2018 - 15:07


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SPECIAL REPORT: Sandalford Wines has established itself as one of Australia’s most popular wineries, with dining and events key to its appeal in the wine tourism market.

Sandalford selling wine experiences
Grant Brinklow says expanding the business’ offerings has underpinned its success, backed by numerous industry awards. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Sandalford Wines has established itself as one of Australia’s most popular wineries, with dining and events key to its appeal in the wine tourism market. 

Grapes have been harvested over successive vintages at Sandalford Wines in the Swan Valley for more than 175 years.

The business has its roots in 1840, when Queen Victoria bequeathed John Septimus Roe, Western Australia’s first surveyor general, 4,000 acres of land at Caversham, with extensive Swan River frontage.  

Among the agricultural operations undertaken at Sandalford estate during those early years it was the vineyards, producing table grapes and wine, which proved most fruitful.

Sandalford exported its first shipment of grapes in 1915, and had established its second viticultural venture across 300 hectares in Wilyabrup by 1970, making the Roe family one of the pioneers of the Margaret River region.

(click here to see a full pdf version of the three article special report)

In 1991, Sandalford was purchased by WA family business Prendiville Group, which owns and operates multiple hospitality businesses, including the Cottesloe Beach Hotel and Hotel Rottnest.

The Prendiville Group has since invested substantially in its facilities and the brand.

Developing different wine experiences in tandem with that investment has been an integral part of the strategy, according to chief executive Grant Brinklow, and a tactic that has come to fruition of late, with the winery winning gold at the Australian Tourism Awards earlier this year for the wineries, distilleries and breweries category, after being a state finalist 10 times and a runner-up twice.

“The Prendiville family had a vision for the business; to produce world-class wines and provide unique wine tourism experiences for the increasing number of people locally and overseas who want to visit wine regions, experiment and learn,” Mr Brinklow told Business News.

“Fast forward to today and we’ve got the estate in the Swan Valley, which is probably one of the most visited wineries in WA, if not Australia.

“Quality is everything but it’s not necessarily the only thing that’s ultimately going to help with getting through to the consumer.

“With a sea of competition, how do you build a relationship with customers? 

“We’re able to have one-on-one experiences with guests at the estates; it’s a very important means of building the brand and repeat patronage.”

Mr Brinklow said Sandalford’s Swan Valley restaurant had won more than 15 Gold Plate awards since its inception in 1998, and the estate had also received a number of wedding venue awards, accommodating about 300 weddings per year, with the business now in the process of building another function room.

Wine education classes and outdoor concerts have also been part of Sandalford’s diversification mix, hosting the likes of Michael Buble, Sting, Lionel Richie, Leonard Cohen and Alicia Keys across both of its estates, holding its largest concert in 2015 when Neil Diamond performed to 16,000 people at its Swan Valley amphitheatre. 

Mr Brinklow said as many as 200,000 people visited Sandalford’s Swan Valley property each year, aided by the business’s partnership with Captain Cook Cruises, which operates charter cruise day trips along the Swan River.

“It all sits under the umbrella of wine – enjoying wine with the right food, company or cultural experience, whether that’s music or art,” he said.

“On the back of (the) Prendivilles’ vision, I think we’ve been nimble enough to take advantage of the right opportunities as they come along.

“And we’re very fortunate because of the Swan Valley’s proximity (to the CBD).”

Mr Brinklow said not all tourists had the time to visit Margaret River, but Sandalford had been able to leverage the fruit of that region through its second property and pair it with the accessibility of its Swan Valley estate.

From a product export perspective, he said Asia had emerged as a promising opportunity for many WA wineries.

“We’ve worked hard to be China ready,” Mr Brinklow said.

“It’s outstripped the annual demand from the UK and US, traditionally the two main export markets for Australian wine.

“And what happens once people start drinking wine?  This is where the wine tourism piece comes into play; they want to visit that region and have a wine experience.

“Our expectation is that this interest in wine experiences will continue to gain more momentum.

“So I think the next chapter of Sandalford’s history will be just as exciting. I’d be surprised if we’re not here for another 178 years.”


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