Vineyard Productions.
Creating a sustainable business model…

In September this year we passed our two year anniversary. A fast and furious twenty-four months had seen a company grow fast in people, structure, ambition and profit.  As a business we set ourselves ambitious goals, most of them based around a set of accounts and the realisation of personal dreams.

As a leader of this business, I have found time recently to stop and consider what we really want this be business to achieve and how we could go about measuring success in a different way.   I have stopped to ask myself, ‘how do we make something intrinsically good’, ‘how do we create a structure built about giving something back, built around empowerment, delivering fairness’.

Back in the international market-place, the industry was not helping.  Corporate wine companies and global market reach was creating business that measured success through turnover, bottle sales and distribution.  Success was found in company sale not a profitable journey and the bigger companies slowly forced out the smaller ones, who could not compete with the margin stress imposed upon them.

Five years ago we made the decision to become involved in production.  Born out of personal fascination and ambition we made a barrel of wine here, a barrel of wine there, we became the creators.  There was a sense in many (although not all) of our decisions, we bought grapes, used other peoples equipment, we got close to production, but we de-risked everything.

As every season passed we understood more and more about the fragility of farming. We listened to a devastating story of mildew, another of heat stress, another of hail.  The pressures of production followed one after each other, vineyard owners burdened by weather, stressed by the unmanageable, and yet we kept on taking our Kilo of grapes, at the pre-agreed prices.   Climate change was topical, irrational weather was the conversation, neither was our problem.

Across all areas technology replaced people; marketing replaced story telling; and then all of a sudden, without a word of warning retailing changed. Trolly shoppers became basket shoppers in less than 5 years, supermarkets who had long invested in huge, out of town sites started to panic, lost margin, lost ability, lost voice. Wine suffered, the trade suffered, but no one suffered like the grower; short of margin from the outset the variabilities of production started to suffocate.

Over the last few years, I have spent more time with growers than ever before. Watched vineyard owners generations old face the reality that on their tenure, business may no longer continue.   I have seen a wine industry fail to react, fail to invest, fail to even realise that changes in climate, sociology and economics are ripping the farmers from their land.   

As a business we are determined to make a difference to those that we work with, and the only way we can do this honestly is to share in the burden of risk and our strategy for doing this will alter from grower to grower.  I am not about to suggest a business of philanthropy, I wont be embarrassed by profit, however, we will ensure that our supply chain is sustainable, that it works, works for everyone involved and that any success we make is enjoyed all the way down.