The Dice Man Cometh

Thursday, 3 June 2021

Global wine homogeneity is a vexing topic. All over the world, the new documentary Vinomondo claims, winemakers with the same technological approach are using the same grapes, the same yeasts and the same oak chips to make the same wine.

Australians and the big purple monster known as the wine trade are to blame. Not only does the world have more wine to drink than ever before, but it also has more people to sell it.

Faceless wine distribution corporations with big buying power pressure small wine companies to make cheaper wine, increasingly unbranded. Big retailers and the wine media are complicit. (When was the last time you read a negative wine review?) But real wine is not dead.

Resistance fighters are emerging - fewer from stranger places or backgrounds than self-confessed revhead Jeremy Holmes, who for the past few years has run a car accessories store in Elizabeth in Adelaide's north, where it's wall-to-wall fluffy dice and eight-ball gear shifter knobs. This is where Jimmy Barnes came from. At the end of a long day, when Holmes red-lines it home to Tanunda in the Barossa Valley, he has one thing on his mind: "high-end booze", the fine wines of Champagne, Chablis, Burgundy and Bordeaux. His description betrays his formative years in the wine business.

A Roseworthy marketing graduate, he has worked in sales and in human resources for such companies as Bridgewater Mill and Yalumba. He's also a partner in a wine import and export business, SATCO, and a family wine label in the Barossa - Mad Dog Wines.

His latest venture is d'or to Door, a mail-list wine sales business that began last November. "I do a lot of travelling to Europe," Holmes says, "and the sorts and the styles of wine that I taste over there are the wines I want to sell here." The tall, jovial Holmes adds an important caveat: "They're also wines I drink. I'm not interested in selling wine that I haven't been able to enjoy with a meal."

He is keen on what he terms QPR (no, he is not a Queens Park Rangers supporter). This, he reckons, stands for quality price rapport. Lovely word, rapport, very wine and very posh. "I'm working on small margins but I don't have the overheads. I have to sell wine that over-delivers. Wines get found out once they hit the world of retail, so I want to make sure the booze I'm selling is good value." At this stage d'or to Door's wines come from distributors that supply most of Australia with its imported wine.

Holmes's prices are very reasonable, however. William Fevre Petit Chablis 2002 at $26 is well below most fine wine stores' price. He says the importers are happy to supply him because they are keen to find new ways to market and that his prices are low because he can get the best out of them.

That's the wine business background coming into play with perhaps a touch of the Elizabeth car accessories store haggle. "The initial response has been great," he says. "And the suppliers and the list won't stay the same. I'm back to Burgundy and Spain later this year and I'm keen to bring in some of my own discoveries."