Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Tulleeho Wine Academy in conversation with Simon Cant, Wine making ambassador, Asia for Penfolds Wines

In the Australian outback, a dry day is not to be trifled with. Dry days however have a wholly different meaning in India, and unfortunately we’re on the verge of what turned out to be a historic elections to decide who would rule Delhi. And although we’re meeting in The Leela Gurgaon, the bar is still off limits, as we’re within striking distance of the Delhi border, and Delhi’s running scared of Gurgaon’s pernicious influence on its sobriety. Something which needs much explanation for Simon Cant, the Asia Pacific wine making ambassador for Penfolds wines. So the upshot is that the most we get to fuel our meeting is  water and hey wine is 85% water so its close!

Simon Cant
I start with a soft ball for Simon to lob out of the park.

Q. Penfolds is associated with the Americas Cup, via it’s sponsorship of Team Oracle, which mounted a historic turnaround (Team Oracle won the last 8 races to come from behind and win). Some comments on the same and your thoughts on beating the Kiwis.

A. Well I’d like to start by saying that we definitely didn’t do anything to inflate the bank balances of the Kiwi sailors!. As a sporting turnaround this was one of the most amazing comebacks I’ve seen though. As a brand association the Americas Cup is a great fit for Penfolds. Sailing is an old sport with a lot of innovation, and it’s the same with wine making, a centuries old art, in which there’s been constant innovation.

The audience for sailing, which is definitely a luxury sport and the Penfolds customer set also overlaps, so the association makes perfect sense. I might also point out that there were Kiwis on both teams!

Q. Penfolds has a massive portfolio. What’s the focus for India?

A. At the entry level, the Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet and  Chardonnay. Up the scale, the Bin 407 and the Bin 389. Down the road we would love to hear about serious wine drinkers in India with 6 bottles of The Grange (one of Australia’s most prestigious red wines and a National Trust -heritage listed wine) in their cellar. We’d also love to see some of our premium wines in an Enomatic (a device used to serve and dispense wine). We put the Grange in an Enomatic at the Grand Hyatt in Djakarta and sold 20 bottles in the first month.

Koonunga Hill Chardonnay
Bin 407
Koonunga Hill Shiraz Cabernet

Q. That brings me to the subject of the Penfolds re-corking clinic (The Penfolds Re-corking Clinics offer the owners of Penfolds red wines which are 15 years and older the opportunity to have their wines assessed by a winemaker, and if necessary, opened, tasted, topped up and re-capsuled on the spot.). How does that work?

A. We just held our first re-corking clinic in China. We’ve found that typically it takes between 8 to 12 years in a market before we do a re-corking clinic there. The first 1 or 2 are typically more events to make people more widely aware of the service we offer. Since we’ve started this service in 1990, we’ve re-certified more than 120,000 bottles globally. This is applicable for any Penfolds red wine, from the Koonunga Hill upwards. If required, we open the bottle and top it up with a little bit of the current vintage (2008). The amount we top it up with is around 15 ml, so there’s no major impact on the wine.
A re-corking in progress for a bottle of The Grange

Q. Does Penfolds have any wine investments outside Australia?

A. No we’re unashamedly 100% Australian and in fact Penfolds is a national heritage icon of South Australia.

Q. Penfolds has been with several owners over the years, how does it feel now to be part of a large wine conglomerate like Treasury Wine Estates, which is one of the largest wine companies in the world. And how does it work as regards competition with other sub-brands in the Treasury portfolio in local markets, like Lindemans, Stags Leap or Beringer.

A. First off, it’s good to be owned by a pure play wine company but still be able to operate independently. There are wonderful benefits to be a part of such a large organisation. Two major benefits, we have a global sales force and secondly, we are able to make rapid technological advancements in the winery. Also to a large extent, most of the wine labels have their own unique offerings and distinct positioning. We’d like to believe that some brands are more equal than others though, and that we’re one of them!

Q. Last Question, what’s your desert island wine?
A. Penfolds St Henri. wonderful as a young wine, wonderful as an old wine, and a counterpoint to Grange, which is a wonderful concentrated wine. A bottle? Not enough. Maybe a jeroboam or two.

St. Henri Shiraz, Simon's desert island wine



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