Through the grapevine

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Orange-based Printhie Wines is a family-owned business and no stranger to awards. Dubbed by James Halliday in the Australian Wine Competition as the “premier winery of the Orange region”, it has continued to grow at a rapid rate, garnering plenty of accolades along the way. Printhie’s 2007 Mountain Range Shiraz recently took out the Best Shiraz Award 2010 and the Best Red Wine Awards 2010 at the 2010 Shanghai International Wine Challenge, China’s premier independent and influential wine competition.

Dave Swift looks after the marketing for the operation – but it hasn’t always been the case. Despite being “born and bred” in the region, Swift opted to try his hand outside the family business as a graphic designer, only to return to the fold (bringing these skills with him) after carving out a career. His brother did the same, only as an engineer.

“The business, in that sense, isn’t really different to any other business,” says Swift. “The difficult thing, really, is just getting your head around the industry as a whole rather than the product spectrum. It’s more about the industry and understanding how the dynamics work.”

Still, Swift admits it was quite the learning curve, especially in an industry, which at the time was in mid-grape glut crisis. The challenges, though, are what drove Swift to such success.

“You’re sort of forced to work hard and make it a success. It simply came down to sales. That was the real priority. Making good wine – it’s standard now. At any price point, you need to be over-delivering.”

Taking the product to the international arena upped the anti when it came to sales – and it solved another dilemma when it came to production.

“Our estate vineyards here are primarily red and Orange, as a whole, is known more so for whites. So, we have an imbalance in our portfolio. So rather than trying to build what we thought would be difficult – a larger market for our reds domestically – we used that opportunity to look at export markets.”

So how does the ‘regional’ tag fare in the international arena?

“Being in Orange has been an advantage,” says Swift. “I wouldn’t have said that probably five years ago. We have a point of difference being a new and emerging region – the last five years particularly have been very strong for Orange as a region. On the back of wine and food tourism, it’s becoming more popular as a destination.

“We work very hard to put ourselves at the forefront of producers here. If Orange continues on the track that it’s heading and we continue being one of the leading producers, we’ll hold that mantle forever. There are very few people who have that opportunity in a wine region. You look at all the established wine regions and there are a number of established players in those regions and they always will be regarded as the forerunners, the most influential players of those regions. In Orange, it’s really there for the taking.”

So how does Swift plan to maintain the lead? Brand integrity – while beneficial to your business – won’t keep you ahead of your competitors for long.

“It’s continual growth,” says Swift. “Be that metric volume or price point growth or growth in the awareness of your brand. The way we see it, it’s a constant requirement to keep improving in all those aspects.”

And there’s no danger, he assures, of resting on their laurels to date.

“We got to the stage very quickly where we could have stopped,” he says. “We were selling everything we were making. But we’re still young – we’re in our early 30s. For us to relax at this point in time makes no sense. Instead, we’re full steam ahead, we’re challenging ourselves with the business to do more. There’s some risk associated obviously, but you’re constantly trying to strive for better.”

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