New online venture celebrates Australia’s best independent small winemakers

- September 15, 2016 3 MIN READ

Approximately 77 percent of wine sales go through Coles or Woolworths outlets, according to a 2014 study by the Winemakers’ Federation of Australia. Former Cranswick Premium Wines General Manager and top Penfolds executive John Quinn, and Lindt Australia CEO Steve Loane have launched Iconic Winemakers, a new “prestige over price” online venture, to disrupt this model and put consumers back in touch with the little guys making their favourite dinner table reds and whites. 

Referencing common discount-led online retailers led by major retailers, Quinn explained what Iconic Winemakers is not.

“Discounted wines, old label clearances or pushing mixed dozens to move dormant stock is not us. What makes Iconic Winemakers unique is that we’re driven by quality, not a price point,” he said.

“Our selection is not available in bottle shops or big retail chains. It is free to subscribe and there are no obligations or compulsory delivery cycles, so you don’t have a mixed case turning up on your doorstep every three months and an unwanted credit card charge.”

What is Iconic Winemakers?

Tasmania’s Samantha Connew was crowned International Red Winemaker of the Year. Former Penfolds senior winemaker Daryl Groom from the Barossa Valley is making a big mark in the US flying solo. And Larry Cherubino’s tenure as senior winemaker at Hardy’s coincided with major growth for the famous winery, before the West Australian completed vintages in Tuscany, Bordeaux, Burgundy and The Loire.

“An Iconic Winemaker is one of Australia’s best credentialed winemakers who has made their name building many of our most loved brands before going on to produce wine under their own label,” Quinn explained.

“If you picture the great Max Schubert, who created Grange, leaving Penfolds to start Schubert’s Wines – that’s an Iconic Winemaker. Our talent has excelled with Lindeman’s, Penfolds, Hardy’s, Houghton’s, Orlando, Rosemount, Seppelt, Tyrrell’s – the list goes on. They have typically also advised in the ‘old world’ wine regions of France, Italy and Germany. So career-wise they are at the top of their game.”

A former First Grade rugby union coach with Shute Shield team Gordon, Quinn said top Australian winemakers shared traits that make our elite sporting coaches in demand abroad.

“We are sought after to share our techniques in the likes of Bordeaux, Champagne or Burgundy because of our expertise and strong work ethic. We are humble as we go about our business hence we are highly regarded,” Quinn explained.

“For example a winemaker from Bordeaux has limited scope to experiment as the fruit they get each year from the vineyard is all they can work with. An Australian winemaker can pick and choose juice from multiple regions with differing vintage conditions that change from year to year.

“Think of two top chefs, one who can buy produce from all over and the other tied to one outlet – you would expect different results. We have options and it makes us think outside the square. It is a skill we exhibit constantly and we are admired for it.

“We also learn a lot from the Europeans. So it is this wonderful cross-pollination of methods that our people bring home to produce something new and exciting themselves. We want to take an industry leadership stance showing our appreciation of our great Australian winemakers.”

Learning from Lindt

Loane has known his new business partner Quinn for 40 years and was so taken with the concept when Quinn laid out his blueprint, he immediately asked if he could invest in it.

He sees similarities between the Iconic Winemakers premise and what has made Lindt a giant in the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) space.

“When I came to Lindt 19 years ago, everyone was a milk chocolate person and we were told by major customers ‘Australians don’t want to pay that amount of money for chocolate, and dark chocolate is never going to be a main player in the market place’, ” he said.

“We now have 15 percent of the block market share with dark chocolate because the market has changed. Consumers are more educated and prefer just a few quality pieces of chocolate at night – less is more.

“The wine market is similar. Local consumers are more educated than ever about wine and don’t buy solely on price. This changing consumer will appreciate our proposition.”

Iconic Winemakers will introduce new selections regularly, with wines currently ranging from $20-75.

To spread the Iconic Winemakers gospel, Quinn has introduced corporate tasting events to expose company management and staff to the website’s selection. He said the response has exceeded even his expectations.

“From the tastings we’ve done so far the common response is ‘there’s not a bad wine among them’. The audiences have been blown away by the quality of the line-up and the winemaker’s background.”

To learn more about Iconic Winemakers, visit www.iconicwinemakers.com.au

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