How this family owned winery scored a deal to send 133,000 bottles to US retailers

Bec Hardy Wines

Richard Dolan and Bec Hardy of Bec Hardy Wines. Source: supplied.

South Australian winemaker Bec Hardy Wines will soon be sending more than 133,500 bottles of McLaren Vale Shiraz, Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc and South Australian Cabernet Sauvignon to major American retail outlets, after securing the second largest export deal in the last 10 years of its Pertaringa brand. 

The family owned wine business was established in July 2020 when owners Bec Hardy and Richard Dolan took over running the Pertaringa brand from Hardy’s father and industry stalwart, Geoff Hardy

The McLaren Vale-based business, which has eight employees, secured the lucrative supply deal last month with the help of their consultant on the ground in the US, Ben von Doussa, whose appointment is partly funded through the SA Export Accelerator Program grant.

It was confirmed in the same week the company was named the Regional Exporter of the Year in the SA Premier’s Export Awards, its second export prize in 15 months. 

The deal will include 1900 cases of Pertaringa ‘Undercover’ Shiraz and Pertaringa ‘Scarecrow’ Sauvignon Blanc, and close to 10,000 cases of Pertaringa Lakeside Cabernet Sauvignon 2019.

Dolan tells SmartCompany it is the company’s largest deal since it was launched mid last year, and the second largest in the 10 years he and Hardy were running the Pertaringa business before they acquired it, and therefore most of the Wines by Geoff Hardy business, in 2020.

The deal itself was the culmination of more than 12 months’ work, says Dolan, who expects additional US deals to be confirmed in the coming months. 

It’s a sign that demand for Australian wine in the States is strong, with Dolan saying US buyers look for “a quality/price ratio that competes very strongly against California as well as a unique and genuine story”. 

Bec Hardy Wines exports to 12 other international markets, including Canada, Taiwan, Indonesia, China, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Thailand, Singapore, Luxembourg and Hong Kong. 

Canadian exporters represent the majority of the company’s exports thanks to a long-standing relationship, says Dolan, while the company also has a strong focus on Asian trading partners.

Bec Hardy Wines export award

Bec Hardy receiving the Regional Export Award in September. Source: supplied.

Diversifying export markets pays off for Bec Hardy Wines

Australian winemakers exported $2.56 billion worth of wine in 2020-21, a decline of 10% on the year before, according to Wine Australia’s most recent Export Report, which also showed export volumes declined by 5% to 695 million litres in the same period. 

According to the report, the US was Australia’s third largest wine export market by value and the second largest by volume last year.  

While Australian exports increased significantly to the UK, Singapore, South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan and Hong Kong, this was not enough to offset a 45% decline in value of wine exports to China, to $606 million, following the introduction of tariffs in 2020. 

Export volumes were also affected by three consecutive lower vintages in 2018, 2019 and 2020. 

Dolan says Bec Hardy Wines continues to maintain strong export relationships in China and has “great confidence and excitement in it as a long-term market for Australian wine”. 

“We’re looking forward to connecting with all our friends there once we are able to travel again; we’re certainly not fair-weather friends,” he says. 

However, Dolan says Bec Hardy Wines has also been “wary of overreliance on any one market, regardless of what it is” and has therefore pursued a diversification strategy, both domestically and internationally. 

“These sales into the US demonstrate that we’re executing on that plan very well,” he says. 

The pandemic has presented challenges for a “people-to-people business” like Bec Hardy Wines, as both Hardy and Dolan haven’t been able to visit key markets to meet customers. However, this has meant the business has explored other options, including securing partners in those regions who they trust. 

“With challenge comes opportunity and the opportunity to think differently — to take different approaches to existing markets and new approaches to new markets,” says Dolan. 

As to his advice to other Australian businesses looking to break into the US export market, Dolan says it is essential to “know your brand and find a partner there who you are confident is on your wavelength”. 

The company’s US consultant, Ben von Doussa, is from South Australia and therefore understands both the local wine industry and the US market “in terms of taste, trends and nuances of the retail sector,” says Dolan. 

Dolan also recommends other exporters make the most of government support that is available and have a “robust strategy” that they can execute well. 

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