A name synonymous with South Australian winemaking, Hardys, a wine company dating back to 1853, continues to carry on a tradition of acknowledging the heritage and history of the region while positioning itself at the very centre of modern winemaking in Australia By Rituparna Chatterjee
Great wine, for me, is wine that speaks to you whether you are listening or not. The essential elements of a great wine are authenticity, vibrancy, intriguing flavour, complexity and well-defined structure and sublime balance,” advocates Bill Hardy, brand ambassador of Hardys, the wine brand synonymous with South Australian winemaking since 1853. The story behind this brand’s inception is quite fascinating. In 1850, Thomas Hardy, the founder and the first generation family member of Hardys, came to Adelaide, Australia from Devon and started working with South Australia’s first winemaker, John Reynell. In 1853, he went onto purchase his first property, Bankside, and four years after planting his first vines, produced his first Bankside vintage and became one of the first exporters of Australian wine. In 1876, he purchased the Tintara vineyards and winery in McLaren Vale. Following this expansion, Thomas Hardy’s nephew, Thomas Hardy Nottage (second generation), joined the family business. In order to continue with this expansion, Thomas Hardy officially took his sons into the family business, becoming Thomas Hardy & Sons. The rest is history with the fifth generation member Bill Hardy presently holding reign of this iconic wine brand.
Expounding on this story, Bill Hardy opines, “All of the 19th century and most of the 20th century we were just winemakers in South Australia. But mid 1970s onwards we started acquiring other small wine businesses around Australia and presently we have vineyards and wineries in West Australia (two), South Australia (three), Victoria (one) and Tasmania (one). At one point we had as many as 12-13 wineries but we consolidated a few of them since some of them were quite close to one another.” Presently, Hardys owns only about 10 per cent of its total vineyards. “We have about 1500 hectares of vines and 90 per cent of the grapes that are processed, we buy them from our contract growers. We have contracts going up to 15 years,” he adds.
An interesting fact is that Hardys is part of the Accolade Wines, a major global wine business with operations in North America, UK, Ireland, mainland Europe, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Asia. Accolade Wines produces around 350 million bottles (750 ml) a year and around half of this constitutes Hardys (producing approximately 170-190 million bottles a year). Interestingly, though Hardys is a strong brand in South Australia, its wines are largely exported. “25-30 per cent of our wines is domestically consumed, while the remaining percentage is exported to UK (40 per cent), Canada and the US, Denmark, Holland, Scandinavia, among others,” mentions Bill Hardy, adding that, currently the company is exporting to 137 countries and India is within the top 20-30 export countries. In Asia, some of the company’s major export markets include Japan, China, Korea, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.
A unique blend
Hardys has several sub-brands under its portfolio like Thomas Hardy, Eileen Hardy, HRB, Sir James, The Journey, Tintara, Oomoo, William Hardy, Nottage Hill, Crest, Stamp, VR (Varietal Range) and Whiskers Blake. “While VR is the entry level wine, the sub-brands named after my ancestors comprise of premium wines,” explains Bill Hardy, adding that, stamp is already present in India and the company is currently hosting training sessions across hotels in the country to introduce the William Hardy sub-brand.
Like his great great grandfather, Bill Hardy shows the same passion for creating wines. His winemaking style reflects the Old World influence of his winemaking training at the University of Bordeaux and his experience in the family’s Tintara cellars in South Australia, thereby successfully fusing Old World with New World influences. Since every wine is different, there is no standard recipe for making Hardys wines. There is, however, one fundamental philosophy that transcends all winemaking at Hardys and that could be expressed as ‘respect for the grapes’, preaches Bill Hardy. “Our winemakers do not attempt to impose their will on the wines we make but, rather, they see their role as nurturing the expression of the varietal and regional characters brought to the wine from the particular vineyard,” asserts Bill Hardy.
The wines from Hardys deliver distinctive aromas and flavours dictated by variety, site and vintage – complemented by subtle winemaking influences, such as oak from barrel maturation – in wines which also stimulate the senses through their structure, texture and balance. “Hardys everyday wines involve our winemakers’ other great skill – that of blending – as consistency of varietal expression and palate structure is more highly valued in these wines than influences such as site and vintage,” he states.
Play and drink
Hardys association with India dates back to the pre-independence era, prior to its association with Sula Selection, the import arm of Sula Vineyards and the exclusive importer and distributor of Hardys wines in India for around 10 years. “Back in the 1870s we were sending samples to India. I came across a letter clipping dating back to 1870s that my great great grandfather had preserved stating how he had sent wine samples to India and that the government had appreciated them. This clipping indicates that India was looking at products that they might import from Australia at that time.”
2015 has been a year of new launches in India for Hardys. Recently Bill Hardy visited India. His visit follows Australian cricketer Glenn McGrath’s visit as Hardys brand ambassador to the country. McGrath was on a four-city tour to announce the launch of the Hardys Art of Cricket wines this September. Sharing his experience of working in the India market, Bill Hardy states, “India offers great potential as a wine market. Hardys’ wines created a stir when we appointed McGrath as Hardys’ brand ambassador to India and announced the release of a collection of wines carrying his name. Further sponsorships of cricket in Australia and England have given Hardys a prominence in those markets and we are keen to achieve similar prominence for our wines in India.”