While it’s no surprise that companies such as Accolade, TWE and Casella rank among Australia’s top 10 largest wine producers by sales of branded wine, there’s a name that’s probably a little unfamiliar on the list – drinks manufacturer Idyll Wine Co.
The Geelong-based company has once again been ranked amongst the top 10 by sales of branded wine in Australia, according to the latest rankings by Winetitles, despite a tumultuous and increasingly competitive 2020. A total of 2268 wine producers across the country entered the ranking, representing a 2% increase from the previous year.
Established as a winemaker that predominantly produced private-label wines for a range of Australian brands, over recent years Idyll Wine Co has successfully transitioned to one of the largest beverage manufacturers in Australia, with a wide range of offerings: cider, flavoured cider, ginger beer, spirits, ready-to-drink products, as well as non-alcoholic beverages, in addition to red, white, rosé and sparkling wine.
Idyll Wine Co has enjoyed strong growth since its new management team joined five years ago, with staff tripling from 42 to 120, business revenue also tripling during the same period and production capability increasing from 14 million bottles to 23 million bottles, in addition to a new canning line being introduced.
Australia’s top 10 largest wine producers by sales of branded wine
1. Accolade Wines
2. Treasury Wine Estates
3. Casella Family Brands
4. Pernod Ricard Winemakers
5. Australian Vintage
6. De Bortoli Wines
7. Warburn Estate
8. Andrew Peace Wines
9. Idyll Wine Co.
Drinks Digest spoke to Andrew Byers (pictured main), Executive Director at Idyll Wine Co, about the company’s diversified business portfolio and sustainability initiatives, which he says are key to its success.
“2020 was a tough year for many Australian wineries, and we’re no exception,” Byers said. “Unusual rainfall, bushfires and COVID-19 coupled with volatile international markets posed serious challenges to the whole industry. It was our diversified portfolios that helped us to take on those challenges while cementing our continued innovation within the industry.”
While many wine companies have been heavily hit by punitive new wine taxes in China, Idyll Wine’s wide export platform has held it in good stead – it currently exports to 45 global markets outside Australia and China, including the UK, the UAE, Sri Lanka, Russia and Japan.
Idyll’s expertise in the booming private label category has been another positive factor.
“The desire for private and exclusive labels from not only domestic and export retailers, but on-line platforms, on-premise venues and direct to consumer wine-clubs continues to grow,” Byers said. “Private and exclusive label wine, cider and RTDs are a very important arm of our business that we take great pride in. These products are brands in every sense of the word, some of which we have been producing for more than a decade with the wine directly linked to specific vineyards and growers over multiple vintages. Similarly with our cider, we have used apples from the same Victorian orchards year upon year to produce great private label ciders that we are proud to stand behind.”
Additionally, the drinks manufacturer also produces an award-winning portfolio of wines under its own labels.
“Our own Idyll Victoria range is made using the best parcels of Victorian fruit we can find, with the goal of offering great Victorian wines at accessible price points,” Byers said.
“The Eden Grove Shiraz that we produce has proven to be very popular, winning double gold medals at the 2019 San Francisco Wine Show and the 2020 CSWA. Our Arcadian Shiraz, which was awarded double gold medals at the London Wine Show in 2018, is also a favourite.”
As for the trends shaping consumers’ taste in wine in 2021, Byers said they continue to evolve rapidly in every segment.
“If we were to pick the biggest one, then it would be that the market is willing to look at broader styles and more varietals than ever before,” he said. “There’s a place for big bold traditional reds like Cabernet and Shiraz as well as more ‘friendly’ alternate varietals, such as Tempranillo and Pinot Noir. The same goes for whites where full-bodied oaked Chardonnay is making a comeback at the same time that there is interest in delicate Vermentino’s and Areneis’.”
Idyll’s decision to expand beyond wine has also been a fruitful one. Its spirit, cider and RTD brands include Fat Pixie, Miss Seed and Monkeyshines, as well as a number of well-known Private Label brands that have broad Australian distribution.
“Our expansion into cider was initially born from a desire to use the skills of our winemakers for more than just vintage – once per year,” Byers explained. “We saw a hole in the market for commercial ciders that were made exclusively from juice derived from Australian grown apples rather than imported concentrate. We were fortunate that we found a retailer that was willing to support this product and together developed Private and Exclusive labelled products to meet the demand.”
Sustainability initiatives at the heart of Idyll
With sustainability central to its business strategy, the drinks manufacturer has adopted a suite of large-scale and long-term sustainable practices throughout beverage production cycles, such as investing in renewable energy and optimising waste management.
Water management is another key aspect of sustainability. Not only does the drinks manufacturer maintain a large water dam at its winery in the Geelong Wine Region, it also efficiently irrigates with recycled dam water, and follows water conservation practices, including mulching.
As a result, 26 million litres of water was recycled in the onsite dam in 2020 and repurposed for other activities, such as irrigation, which accounted for over 80% of the total water usage by the company for the year.
In 2018, Idyll Wine Co introduced a large-scale compost program at both its own winemaking facility and other local compost sites. Combining grape marc, water reeds, perlite, chipped pallets and horse manure, the compost results in nutrient-rich soil, and the company’s facility alone is capable of producing 800-1400 cubic metres of compost each year.
Additionally, Idyll Wine Co contributes the majority of its grape marc to other compost in the local community, resulting in broader environmental benefits.
Idyll Wine Co purchases renewable energy from the Ararat Wind Farm and Kiamal Solar Farm in Victoria. In 2020, its operations relied entirely on energy from renewable sources.
What’s more, the drinks manufacturer repurposed 328,169 recycled containers into quad packs in 2020, according to Victorian packaging company PakTech.
“Our strategy is clear,” Byers concluded. “We strive to build an environmentally sustainable, healthy, profitable business that rewards its employees, respects its environment, and contributes to its community.”