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Bird in Hand is better than Two in the Bush

Posted: Monday, 10 January 2011 11:38

Bird in Hand is better than Two in the Bush

The old dictum that a bird in hand is better than two in the bush, is truly applicable to the Bird in Hand label being better than the Two in the Bush, both being part of the range produced and marketed by the South Australian family winery Bird in Hand, whose marketing co- owner Justin Nugent was in Delhi last week and had an exclusive chat with Subhash Arora.

Photos By:: Adil Arora

Located in the picturesque Adelaide Hills, close to Adelaide city in South Australia, the winery was started by his viticulturist and enologist brother Andrew who planted vines in 1997, when Brand Australia was the current darling of the wine world. But in a short period of 13 years, the brothers’ team has reached a level of 70,000 cases, exporting to 36 countries and bagging several awards, the most outstanding being the red 5-star award-the highest accolade, from the country’s top wine critic, James Halliday.

The company’s wines were launched in India in March 2010 by Aspri when Justin visited India. ‘We are already listed in 25 hotels in 11 cities,’ says Nugent, who flies from city to city meeting the hoteliers, organising dinners with the opinion makers, adding, ‘we are in the market for the long term and are working to develop the brand. We are building the foundation for the future.’ The Nugent family has a clear vision and mission-to make it one of the best wineries of the world.

In the endeavour for excellence, the Nugents are aided by consultant winemaker Kym Milne MW, who is the only outside, minority shareholder in the family enterprise. Kym has 33 years experience of winemaking, 20 years of which came after he received the coveted MW diploma in 1991. Owner of Global Wine Solutions Pty Ltd, this flying winemaker has helped several wineries in winemaking internationally and is key towards achieving their goals.

Positioning themselves in the 5-star hotels, Bird in Hand and Two in the Bush share wine cellar space with other quality wines in hotels like the Taj and JW Marriott, in 11 cities including Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Pune, Chennai and states of Goa, Rajasthan and in the North East. As might be expected for quality wines in India, ‘we are mostly positioned in hotels and gourmet stores,’ says Justin. ‘It was a pleasant surprise to find our wines in a recently opened gourmet store in Pune-Providore, owned by Salony Kane who is quite passionate about wines and has been to our winery too,’ he adds.

Five of their labels are imported in India. Bird in Hand Merlot and Shiraz are superior, more expensive, more complex, concentrated and premium wines made from the fruit picked out from the best parcels, as compared to the Two in the Bush Semillon and Shiraz. Bird in hand Sparkling Pinot Noir Rose produced by the Charmat method completes the portfolio exported through Aspri Spirits Pvt Ltd, says Justin who adds that their flagship label ‘Nest Egg’ is made from the best grapes from every vintage with each bottled numbered.

The winery owns 100 acres of vineyards, and buys about half of its fruit requirements from the nearby growers ‘who my brother knew well before we planted our vines in 1997. We also do vineyard management for most of these growers.’

How does he feel about the Indian market? ‘We entered India last March and have already sent our third shipment-each increasing in the number of pallets. So I must say we are very happy with the Indian market which to us is as important as China and we hope our distributors who are promoting our brand and wines very well, will be able to penetrate the market further.’Bird In Hand wines are well known internationally for its great quality. Moreover the interesting name and excellent packaging has further helped us in establishing this brand and in getting better acceptance by the consumers. It has great recall value both at on- premise as well as off-premise retail segment,' says Sumedh Singh Mandla, CEO of Aspri's Wine Division. Lest you think that the winery is named after the popular adage, there used to be a gold mine by the name of ‘Bird in Hand’ in the 1850s in their region.


Viewers of Masterchef Australia, the mother of all the TV cooking competitions in the world, which concluded last month might recollect that five of the top eight finalists had been invited to the winery for one of the episodes. Says Justin proudly, ‘it was a charity event where each contestant was given a bottle of wine and was asked to design a recipe to match the Bird in Hand wine. Each of the 100 registrants paying A$140 a plate could watch these Chefs cook a dish they could eat with it. We, of course, donated wines for the event, the proceeds of which were donated to a crippled children’s charity organisation, Novita.'

How is the grape glut and foreign exchange problem affecting them, I cannot resist asking Justin. ‘Actually for us the appreciation of the Aussie dollar is more of a problem. Like others, we also have had to adjust our export prices downwards in the markets where the prices were affected due to currency valuations,’ he says. The company had started with 90% exports but is down to 40% now, although the export volumes have been growing. They would like to have a fifty –fifty proportion between the domestic and export market.

Bird in Hand may be chasing two in the bush to become one of the best wineries in the world, but with the passion and ambition for quality and with technical assistance from Kym, the South Australian winery appears to be on the right path. It certainly seems to be inching towards improving brand awareness and increasing the share of the sale of their label and also Australian wines in the Indian market.

Subhash Arora


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