The high-flying adventures of Lisa McGuigan Wines

Lisa McGuigan Wines launched in 2011 with four core wines. In that short space of time McGuigan has secured a deal with Jetstar to carry her wines and McGuigan Wines turned over between $1 million to $2 million last year. It’s not McGuigan’s first wine venture, she is a member of wine royalty, in the form of the McGuigan family, and was the woman behind McGuigan’s internationally successful Tempus Two label.

When I finished high school I went and studied hotel management and worked in five star hotels in Sydney for the next five years. Even though I had grown up in a winery I didn’t want to do what my dad did.

Having my own career gave me my own opportunities and I learnt so much about how things should look and how if I did have a wine how I would want it to look.

I started to think about maybe having my own wine around the age of 28. So after working and thinking about this idea and formulating it for a year or 18 months, I approached the board of directors of McGuigan where my dad was the chief executive, and presented to them. They included David Clarke from Macquarie, Ian Ferrier and Nick Greiner so it was a tough audience.

So I went in and did a presentation and got them to agree to back the brand I had come up with and the idea.

I started selling Tempus Two under a different name but the brand went from nothing in 1997 to about 200,000 cases by 2007. I thought the brand was going to be mine one day but it became a very big part of McGuigan’s portfolio. It had huge success in the UK.

I loved it but I had always intended to have a smaller, more boutique and more hands-on kind of a business.

I love making wine, I love selling wine and I love being out the front talking about it, but my job was very much office bound. I wanted to get back to doing what I loved.

I wanted to get back to creating something that is more handmade. I decided to start my own brand again and this time I’ve backed it.

Now the resources I’ve had in all my previous roles I don’t have anymore. But if I don’t know how to do it now I should be doing something else. I have to be really hands on.

To fund it, I sold all my assets including my car collection and my apartment.  I put $3 million into my business.

My dad has been my adviser on the business and it has been great having him on the production side because I’m mainly in Sydney.

I’ve only been selling into the Sydney market. In the second year I got into the Victorian market and this year I have just set up an arrangement with a distributor in Queensland. I haven’t done any export.

The wine industry has doubled in size in terms of brands since I started Tempus Two as everyone is trying to be boutique now. All the consumers want products that are a bit more specialised and unique. Consumers are more discerning than they were 10 to 20 years ago.

I was on a panel for the Jetstar wine selection for business class for a few years so they gave me the opportunity to create wines for their economy 187ml service. I was offered a three month slot for the wines. It’s great because all those people sitting on a plane you have their complete attention for a long time. I selected a shiraz from the Barossa and a semillon sauvignon blanc. They went so well that it turned into a two year contract.

It was quite a lot of fun. Although I used to hate getting on a Jetstar flight with a hangover as they’d always get me up to do a wine talk. It didn’t generate a lot of profit but I wanted to do it for promotion. Most of the time companies like Jetstar want an established name so I really managed to sneak in the door.

I’m looking at a joint venture business for the UK and Europe. It’s a great next step for me.

I want to stay small but I will run out of money, so what do I do? This way I will get a royalty. My name was used with Tempus Two in the UK so I think there is some name recognition out there.  I’ve got those relationships still with Tesco in the UK. They know that I am all about the follow up and keeping the brand happening and keeping it present.


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