HOW TO START A WINE LABEL WHEN YOU’RE NOT EVEN A WINEMAKER – MIA McCARTHY

Guess what’s lame in 2017? Working for anyone but yourself, or at least that’s the vibe we’re getting with the thousands of millennials starting their own businesses every year in Aus. And, we’re all for it at MTP, hi-fives, no more full time gear shifting someone else’s dream for you guys.

But it’s not all smooth sailing, in fact it’s probably more akin to being dropped in the middle of the ocean without being able to swim. Someone who knows the ins and outs of  running your own bizness well is Mia McCarthy. Mia started her first venture, Yummia, in the comfort of her parents kitchen, which overtime grew to supply major supermarkets across Australia with muesli and yoghurt products. After 6 years in the dairy aisle, it was time for her to exit.

Now, Mia’s swirling, sniffing and sipping her way throughout her next venture, Luxe Estate Wine Co. She’s not a winemaker, she doesn’t come from a family of wino’s, she just simply likes wine. Because we also like wine, we asked Mia to take us through how exactly she started the label without having a bloody clue how to do it.

Sparkling sparked an idea

A few years ago I had the idea of creating a wine label that brought together beautiful packaging and wine, aimed at the female millennial consumer. At the time I was working overtime on my business Yummia and being a female millennial myself any spare change I did manage to have was swiftly spent on European summers or online shopping. Fast forward a few years, I exited Yummia and found some time to create and launch Luxe Estate Wine Co.

My experience in the wine industry up until this point went a little something like this, “would you like some more bubbles” “why yes, please I would” and that’s about the extent of my ‘wine knowledge’. So it’s been a deep, steep learning curve but one I would not change for all the bottles of sparkling in the world. Here are some things I’ve learnt since starting Luxe Estate.

Get a team, make sure they’re good

Luxe Estate Wine Co. is the culmination of a team of people far greater than just myself. I had the idea but knew I needed to get a posse of peeps that could bring a different level of experience and knowledge to this project. I had some industry experience with Yummia that opened up doors, so I knew exactly whose doors I would be knocking on to bring this baby to life. Luxe has three co-founders, David, Nicola and myself. David and Nicola both bring a wealth of experience and different perspective to Luxe. The cliché is true, more heads are better than one.

Don’t skip the logistics

Yes, yawn guys, it’s the boring logistics. I knew enough about wine to know I pretty much knew nothing at all in terms of the technical side of winemaking. I knew we needed to partner with someone. We have partnered with an estate vineyard based in the Pyrenees wine region in Victoria, where all the vintaging, maturing and packaging happens on site….the sparkling wine is made “méthode traditionnelle” which is basically wine talk for ‘really really good’.

Partnering with a vineyard has given me access to a seasoned wine maker, I’m not afraid to ask lots (and lots) of questions. There are so many steps involved in making sparkling wine and it’s been important to fully understand the process and journey the sparkling wine has taken from picking the grapes to the end bubbly result.

Wine making is a long process and has been a lesson in patience for me. I’ve learnt the importance of taking the time to make the right decision and not rushing the process.

Make a buyer your buddy

The liquor industry is highly regulated (duh) and also being a convenience purchase, we knew we had to have a retail presence in the liquor stores. Most of these stores are banner groups run by big supermarkets. Buyers are looking for products that offer something new and innovative to their range. Work with the buyers to find what they are looking for, you might need to be a little flexible in the way your products are brought to market as you’re working in around major retail which has it’s own internal pressures and logistics. Be fluid and flexible, whilst staying true to your brand vision.

How to deal with experts

The wine industry in particular is very well established and prestigious. Use these people to your advantage. When I first started out in the wine industry I knew next to nothing. I was not afraid to speak up and offer a new perspective whilst learning what they thought and already knew.

The wine experts are going to be the key to providing consumers with a quality wine, we have really focused on the importance of providing a quality product and differentiated through packaging and occasion. The wine itself in our Luxe Estate bottles is very traditional.

Take SMALL steps in the right direction

This is the easy part, I’ve always been quite secure in what I want to achieve. Absolutely no idea at all about how I’m going to get there…so baby steps help. Before we become the next wine dynasty we probably need to get some stock on shelves. So focusing on what needs to be achieved on a daily, monthly, yearly basis. All the while keeping your vision alive.

Well there you go, you really can have your wine, own it and drink it too.

 


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