It was an exciting 2018 for the House of Fine Wine (HoFW), with the business performing above expectations in its first full year of trading.

House of Fine Wine was created in May 2017 and saw three family-owned and multi-generational wineries, Villa Maria, Société Jacques Bollinger and Henschke come together to develop a dedicated distribution business for the Australian market.

David Bird, the General Manager of HoFW said that in 2018 “the focus was to improve product mix and average retail price across the portfolio, increase distribution across all states and territories, and provide best in class customer service”, which allowed the business to finish the year on a high.

Looking to 2019, Bird says that it will be a commitment to customer education and developing strong business plans with customers that will be the key to another strong year.

HoFW has an in-house team of certified WSET educators who in 2019 will focus on providing key customers with “best in class” education and qualifications, from WSET level one to level three.

“We all have a role in helping to educate the industry which in turn builds future industry leaders, increases job satisfaction, customer service and attracts high calibre new talent.

“Our successful ‘Museum and Rare’ program will continue to evolve and provide customers with alternative varieties, organics, small parcel back vintages and large format wines. We know consumer interest in alternative varieties and access to back vintage wines continues to grow, with Villa Maria and Henschke leading the way through this program.

“We will continue to work closely with our key customers to gain better understanding of their business needs, profit drivers and opportunities, and create tailored brand activation and NPD to leverage consumer trends and customer needs.

“Our major challenge continues to be the aggressive retail pricing which in turn increases the importance in developing strong business plans with our customers outlining price vision and strategy to move in the right direction.”

When it comes to trends for the year ahead, Bird says that while Sauvignon Blanc will remain a key variety for the Villa Maria business, the rise of rosé and Chardonnay cannot be ignored.

“We will continue to champion Sauvignon Blanc as it’s the most important variety to the Villa Maria business and although the category has recently experienced a growth slowdown it is still the largest segment in the Australian wine category. It has high consumer loyalty and we know there are still a lot of wine drinkers just discovering or still enjoying Sauvignon Blanc and the Villa Maria brand.

“We certainly can’t ignore the rosé phenomenon and resurgence of Chardonnay, and in regards to reds, Villa Maria and Henschke are well positioned to supply quality Pinot Noir and Shiraz, both experiencing the most significant growth in the red wine category.”

And as for the industry overall, Bird hopes that sustainability will remain at the forefront of the agenda.

“With our reliance on, and close relationship with the land, our industry must take the lead on sustainability. There is increasing pressure from consumers that brands are doing the right thing for the future, so we need to find ways to embed sustainable principles into the culture of our businesses.”

As Villa Maria’s owner and founder, Sir George Fistonich says, “As a family company, the desire to leave something for the next generation is an ever-present and overriding business objective”.

This article was written for the 2019 National Liquor News Annual Industry Leaders Forum published in February.

Deborah Jackson

Deb joined Intermedia in 2015 as Editor of National Liquor News and Deputy Editor of The Shout. Since then, she has also worked as the Editor of Beer & Brewer and the New Zealand title, World of Wine....

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