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WINE chat with Andrew Nugent

Andrew Nugent, from award-winning South Australian winery, Bird in Hand, headed over to London to proudly present his wine during Wine Australia’s highly acclaimed Australia Day Tastings.

With an excellent line-up of wine available throughout the UK, Bird in Hand was keen to know what the South Australian expats thought. The Office of the Agent General and Andrew himself, decided to host a wine tasting to find out! After a wonderful evening of wine, cheese and great conversation our members from South Australians in Europe left with nothing but praise.

We were lucky enough to sit down and chat to Andrew, who seems to be achieving his goal: to be at the pinnacle of world winemaking.

BIRD IN HAND

Bird in Hand started with you and your father Michael on the site of a retired gold mine. The winery celebrates place and passion through food, art, and cultural events. What are the most important values to Bird in Hand?

Having founded Bird in Hand over twenty years ago, we’ve grown from a small Adelaide Hills’ producer on a small former dairy site, to a brand that operates globally. While still very much a family business, establishing ourselves as a global brand making wines that rank among the world’s finest is our ambitious goal.

Making premium cool climate wines is of course, what Bird in Hand is about, but we also understand that wine is about much more than that – it’s a springboard to enjoying many of the good things in life, and goes hand in hand with food, art, design, fashion and music. We want our customers to immerse themselves in the entire Bird in Hand experience, whether that’s by visiting our cellar door in the Adelaide Hills or through enjoying our wines at a fashion event in New York City or London.

What makes Bird in Hand stand out from other wineries?

We celebrated our 20th anniversary last year, which makes us one of the most established in the Adelaide Hills, which back in 1997 was just a dot on the global wine map. We’re very lucky to have an exceptional team of winemakers here, including Kym Milne MW, who was Australia’s second MW and has a cluster of awards to his name. Whilst we are always focused on the quality of our wines, and producing new and exciting varieties, we’re also always thinking about the bigger picture. I think it’s the balance of quality and range of wines, coupled with our understanding of the importance of brand, tracking of global trends and collaborating with some of the world’s most influential creative thinkers, that stands us out from others.

UK MARKET & WAITROSE

Waitrose is a brand synonymous with high quality and stocking more than 1200 wine and spirits, many of them award-winning names. Tell us a bit about what they are like to work with.

Having only begun our listing in Waitrose last year, it is still in its infancy, but we’re pleased that we have a partner who understands our business and our priorities, and attracts customers who are wine-curious and interested in trying new varieties and products.

The UK wine trade is fiercely competitive market to break into, especially with old wine regions like France and Spain dominating the market. Can you tell us about your experience importing to the UK?

Due to the cultural and historical links between our two countries, many British consumers are familiar with Australian wine and the nuances of the different regions. As a result, we have an existing connection with wine buyers here. Whilst, many wine lovers may default to old world, traditional regions, in recent years, many consumers are beginning to understand that there is much more to Australia than what dominated the UK market twenty years ago. A lot of wine producers are investing heavily in quality, grape sourcing and branding and British consumers are beginning to realise that wines from Australia can give old world regions a run for their money.

Australians have an excellent reputation for wine, and with that comes the expats living the UK, trying to spread their love of Aussie wine. How important is the expat community in terms of sharing the “Bird in Hand” name and reputation?

There’s a huge Australian expat community in the UK and we’re had a really positive response from them when they see our wines are now available in their adopted home. We’re lucky to have many loyal fans in South Australia, and seeing them take back their appreciation to the UK and share our story with friends is something for us to treasure.

Australians living in the UK are notoriously patriotic, always referring to Oz as “home”. What would be your message to antipodeans buying, drinking and sharing the good word of South Australian wine here?  How can we help spread the good word of Bird in Hand?

South Australians are a fiercely loyal and patriotic bunch. There’s a huge culture of buying local and supporting your community, particularly in food and wine provenance, and it’s heartening to see this played out in bars and restaurants in Adelaide where customers tend to choose the South Aussie grape over other regions. I think you see this more strongly in South Australia than in other states, perhaps due to the proximity of the wine regions to the capital city.

We love South Aussies in the UK sharing their love for Bird in Hand and other Australian brands, be it through sharing on social media, buying a gift for a friend to demonstrate pride in your home, or dropping into the winery when they come home.

COLLABORATIONS

Bird in Hand has worked with British fashion treasures like Henry Holland and Stella McCartney. Late last year you revealed a new sparkling wine, Bird in Hand x House of Holland, a sparkling Pinot Noir entirely designed by Henry Holland including the slogan “Wine Me Dine Me Please Refine Me” in his signature font with the added touch of a polka dot cork.

Can you tell us more about working alongside fashion houses?

We believe wine and art go hand in hand, and fashion has a strong synergy.  Fashion is all about fun, and feeling positive about yourself and your friends, and a glass of wine is the perfect partner for these celebrations.

We want to make sure that the designers or partners we do collaborate with share our values. It’s about style, sophistication, but with a wink and a smile, not taking yourself too seriously. That’s why Henry was a good partner for us to team up with – he’s well regarded in fashion circles, but he’s also genuine and authentic and a pleasure to work with.

How important are these fashion or culture partnerships for launching and progressing the Bird in Hand brand?

For us, these arts and fashion partnerships are about aligning ourselves with a partner we admire, and reaching new audiences through collaborations. Wine is a competitive industry, particularly in the UK, and working in partnership to help reach new people and raise awareness is a useful marketing tool, one that many brands are embracing.

Is there someone you would love BIH to pair with next?

We’re always looking for partners who align with our values and ambitions. Linking back to Australia, and more specifically South Australia is something we always consider, for example, being the official wine partner for the Australian Arts Awards held by the American Australian Association in New York.  This has the dual purpose of raising awareness of Bird in Hand in the US, while also giving us the opportunity to support Australians who are making it overseas. We also look at how it is really capturing the zeitgeist in the global cities that we want to raise a profile in, and appeals to our target market.

AWARDS

In 2015, the Bird in Hand M.A.C. Shiraz made wine history by winning the title of World’s Best Shiraz for a third time. Tell us about what this prestigious honour means to you?

Ultimately, producing great wines is our priority, so to receive such a fantastic accolade is credit to the skills and hard work of our winemaking team. We’ve always known the Adelaide Hills can produce world class, cooler climate styles of shiraz. Our first vintage (2005) was named Winestate’s wine of the year and it’s gone from strength to strength ever since.

The 2017 Bird in Hand Sauvignon Blanc was the first of this grape variety to be judged the best that was not produced in New Zealand. How did it feel beating the Kiwis at their “best game”?

New Zealand has been dominating the Sauvignon Blanc market for many years, so it was great to be the first Australian winemaker to achieve this accolade. The Adelaide Hills has a great reputation for its cool climate wine styles and the cool 2017 vintage produced some excellent sauvignon blancs right across the region.  We knew when we produced this vintage that it was something special, but to have that acknowledged by industry experts and peers makes it all the more rewarding.

ADELAIDE VS. THE WORLD!

Adelaide has joined the exclusive network of the Great Wine Capitals of the World. How do you think we stack up against heavy weights like Napa Valley and Bordeaux?

Not only is South Australia growing in global acclaim as a wine producer, but Adelaide as a city has become more accessible, with so much more to offer the visitor than it did several decades ago. We’re lucky to be part of a wine region that is so close to a city, and it helps to bring many visitors to our winery on a daily basis. What is special about the Great Wine Capitals of the World is that every spot offers something completely different. Bordeaux offers old world European charm, while the Napa Valley is a completely different experience. Adelaide is a hugely attractive spot for wine-lovers, a small, accessible city with fabulous bars, restaurants and an arts scene, with wine regions less than an hour away.

For further information head over to the Bird in Hand website for: food, art, design, friendship, celebration…and of course, wine!

 

Click here to view the Bird in Hand range available for purchase at Waitrose.