The Coonawarra wine region is well known for some of the best Cabernet Sauvignon in the country. It is a unique and compact wine region but packs a punch in its offering, and the talent of its Winemaker’s. One of these Winemaker’s is Tim Bailey from Bailey Wine Co. In the last few years Tim and his wife Lou started their own label after Tim’s nearly 21-year career as wine maker at Leconfield wines, where Tim still works today. We sat down to chat with Tim about his love for wine, the industry, and the passion for putting grapes into a bottle.
Having his own wine label has been a dream for a while, and Tim knew it was the right time to launch his own boutique wines; it was now or never to get his product on the market and to the consumers. Tim says, “It’s very different game launching your own label without the big marketing budgets that large wine companies have, but there is a lot of reward in seeing your own product on the market”.
Starting his career in Wine Marketing back in 1996, and having his Mum working cellar door sales in his younger years, there has always been a strong family connection to the wine industry. One of Tim’s ancestors was the first man to export wine out of Australia, so it was fated that Tim would end up in the industry.
Learning a lot in his time Marketing wine, his bold and bright labels are designed to catch the eye and make you remember his wines long after you’ve enjoyed them. Tim said, “this is no accident that the wine labels are so bright, it’s all part of the branding and marketing strategy”.
Tim didn’t set out to be in the wine industry; he was playing in the national hockey league and had a goal to get to the Olympics at 18. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending how you look at it, he ended up missing out, however the same week he got a trainee winemaker job and that is where his career in wine started.
Tim has been at Leconfield ever since and went on to study winemaking over several years whilst working full time. In 2007, he won the Young Winemaker of The Year which he counts as a career highlight. He also feels his time at Leconfield has turned the direction of the winery around, and has been a great achievement that he takes pride in.
Tim says one of his biggest strengths is being out in the market and creating and building relationships with people who stock his wines. There are a lot of factors that go into how to brand a new label and market a product. One of the considerations for Tim has been “The younger consumer is now very health conscious and price conscious so it is challenging from a financial perspective to balance the cost of production against the price point, but we always will strive to over deliver on quality". This has been a core focus Bailey Wine Co. in making a quality drop, but at a reasonable price point.
“They aim to really over deliver on quality, making it in a way that people get the style”
On learning the craft of winemaking and deciding what style you like to work with, Tim says he takes bits and pieces from successful people and works with different ideas. “There is always a dance around the edges with alternative varieties, but the biggest change in the industry is the stylistic move toward freshness and buoyancy of the fruit to build on the quality of the wines being produced” he said.
Tim believes you need to work under someone else if you are learning the craft of winemaking. You should have the theoretical knowledge through study, and then marry that in with the practical ‘on the job’ experience and learning from others.
“If you have an affinity for a certain style, go and work for someone who is a leader with that style, and see if you still love it after working with it”.
Tim has seen many changes in the wine industry in his time, but notably the explosion of brands has been one of the biggest changes he has seen in the industry over the years combined with the consolidation of retailers. “Seeing the good times, and then seeing the belts tighten over a 15-18 year period has been an interesting thing to watch”.
He believes finding the ‘fresh zone’ in making wine is the most critical factor to getting good fruit from the vine to the bottle. It's a tricky balance as fruit can lose bounce and vibrancy when it gets too ripe, so it’s a matter of constantly monitoring and tasting the grapes during the ripening season, and then picking the grapes at the right time in the ‘fresh zone’. “Winemaking is very much about timing, and trusting your gut and your palate”.
“Riesling is probably one of the easier wines to make. You take it from grape to bottle with very little intervention, and it should end up tasting basically the same as a wine as it did as a grape”, he states.
The focus has been on keeping his own product line pretty tight. He aims to build it up over the next couple of years; getting a reputation for over-delivering on quality. “The ultimate goal is to get Bailey Wine Co. in to high-end restaurant’s around Australia”.
“I get a kick out of going in to a venue and seeing our own label in there, and even better seeing others enjoying it”, Tim says.
You can check out Tim wines at Bailey Wine Co.
I’m sure we will be hearing many more good things about Tim’s wines over the coming years, and we can’t wait to taste more of them!